Health Watch -- Arthritis Treatment (Part 1)

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Early diagnosis benefits the treatment of many diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis can be a life-altering condition. It can make even simple-seeming daily tasks difficult or impossible. The disease can even lead to serious disabilities that keep you from working or caring for yourself.

But doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say early, aggressive treatment can make a big difference in how the disease progresses. Rheumatoid arthritis is similar to other autoimmune or inflammatory conditions, such as insulin-dependent diabetes or multiple sclerosis. There's no outright cure, but there are treatments that can slow the progression of the disease and limit debilitating side effects. Left untreated, patients can very quickly become seriously disabled.

The first step is diagnosing the disease.

Dr. David Karp, chief of rheumatic diseases at UT Southwestern, says you should see your doctor if you have pain or discomfort in your bones, muscles or joints that lasts more than a few weeks or interferes with your daily routine.

Your doctor may refer you to a rheumatologist to for a diagnosis. If you have the disease, the specialist will develop a customized treatment plan to help you manage the disease and maintain as much function as possible.

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April 2004

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