About Rheumatoid Arthritis

At any one time, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects over 2 million American adults. Contrary to belief, RA is not just "aches and pains." It is a chronic disease of the immune system associated with frequently swollen and inflamed joints. RA often leads to systemic symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss, and depression. Long-term joint damage, if not checked, eventually leads to reduced mobility. Ultimately, people with untreated RA often experience chronic pain, loss of function and long-term disability.

Like RA, other autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus, scleroderma, Sjogren's syndrome, Wegener's granulomatosis and others are all chronic systemic diseases that only rarely "go away" without treatment. All autoimmune diseases can seriously affect a number of organs in the body including the heart and lungs.

No matter your age or level of activity, early diagnosis and treatment of RA is critical to living a productive lifestyle. Studies—including Mount Sinai's investigations—show that early and aggressive treatment can limit joint and organ damage and keep patients active and working. Timely treatment also helps to avoid potential complications, and may help delay or prevent the need for surgery.

Sometimes it may become necessary to call in other specialists to help us treat a patient's condition. Depending on the diagnosis and on individual needs, a patient may meet with a coordinated team of physicians and other healthcare professionals ranging from orthopedic surgeons and gastroenterologists to nutritionists, physical therapists, dermatologists, rehabilitation medicine, pain management, and mental health professionals. Routine access to so many qualified professionals is one of the major benefits of seeking specialized healthcare in a large multidisciplinary center like The Mount Sinai Health System.

Patients requiring hospitalization for autoimmune-related treatment are admitted to The Mount Sinai Hospital where physicians from the Division of Rheumatology work with multidisciplinary treatment teams to ensure that our patients' medical, nutritional, and psychological needs are met during their hospital stay as well as after discharge.