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HSS Doctor Helps You Understand Rheumatoid Arthritis

Dr. Dee Dee Wu of Hospital for Special Surgery.
Dr. Dee Dee Wu of Hospital for Special Surgery. Photo Credit: HSS

PARAMUS, N.J. -- HSS rheumatologist Dee Dee Wu provides an in-depth understanding of rheumatoid arthritis in part one of a two-part series.

What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder characterized by joint inflammation, which can lead to progressive joint damage, deformities and disability if left untreated.

Who is affected by rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis can occur at any age, but the peak onset is between the ages of 50 and 75. Disease prevalence is about 1 percent in Caucasians, but ranges between 0.1- 5 percent in other ethnic groups. Women are affected two to three times more often than men.

What are risk factors for developing rheumatoid arthritis?

The causes of RA remain unclear, but certain genes have been identified that make certain individuals more prone to developing disease. Cigarette smoking and obesity have also been identified as risk factors. It has been hypothesized that certain environmental triggers, such as bacterial or viral infections, may contribute to the development of RA, but no specific organisms have been identified.

What are symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?

Patients with rheumatoid arthritis typically present with symmetrical joint pain, swelling and prolonged stiffness in the morning. The joint stiffness usually improves with activity, but it may take up to several hours. Small joints (hands, wrists) are more frequently affected than large joints (knees, hips). The cervical spine is occasionally involved, resulting in neck pain and stiffness. Many patients complain of decreased handgrip strength and limitations in hand function, so it may be difficult to open jars, turn doorknobs and perform fine motor tasks, such as fastening buttons.

Dr. Dee Dee Wu is a Rheumatologist at HSS, specializing in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, osteoarthritis, and osteoporosis. Dr. Wu currently practices at Hospital for Special Surgery’s Manhattan campus and the Paramus Outpatient Center.