Arthritis Awareness Month - Discover Your Window Of Opportunity For Optimal Treatment

They say timing is everything, and the saying is also true for those with rheumatic diseases - the most severe of the 100 diseases often lumped under the umbrella term 'arthritis.'

The first weeks and months following the onset of rheumatic disease symptoms are known as the "window of opportunity" - the short period of time in which patients who get appropriate treatment can diminish the long-term complications of their disease. Early and appropriate treatment can prevent damage to joints and organs, improve long-term function, and increase the likelihood of achieving disease remission. Knowing the signs and symptoms of rheumatic diseases and asking your physician if you should see a rheumatologist is the best way to ensure you receive early and appropriate treatment.

Defining arthritis

The term arthritis is used to describe over 100 conditions and the Centers for Disease Control estimates that nearly 22 percent of the population suffers from the disease. In addition to common musculoskeletal disease, such as osteoarthritis, inflammatory rheumatic diseases are often lumped under the umbrella term of arthritis. These diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, gout, scleroderma, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, and Sjogren's syndrome.

Why see a rheumatologist?

Just as oncologists treat cancer and cardiologists care for the heart, rheumatologists are the only specialists specifically trained to treat arthritis and rheumatic diseases. Rheumatologists and rheumatology health professionals are best equipped to help manage rheumatic diseases as well as the associated pain, medical costs, disability and work limitations.

Health Professionals: Know the signs of lupus and take action

While rheumatologists are the only specialists specifically trained to diagnose and treat rheumatic diseases like lupus,other health care professionals are often the first to diagnosis patients. To assist these medical professionals, the Lupus Initiative offers free educational resources to recognize the signs of lupus and when to take action by referring patients to a rheumatologist.

Eliminating Lupus Health Disparities

The Lupus Initiative works to enhance lupus curricula at medical, nursing and health professional schools by better preparing the workforce to identify lupus in populations disproportionately affected by the disease. Although lupus can occur from infancy to old age, peak occurrence generally strikes in women of childbearing years between ages 15 and 40. Approximately one-third of deaths occur among patients younger than 45 years of age. Women are six to 10 times more likely to have lupus than are men, and lupus is two to three times more prevalent among women of color-African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans-than among Caucasian women.

A place for patients to share their stories with health professionals

Hear directly from lupus patients about what health professionals should know about living with the disease. Dr. S. Sam Lim, is available to talk about the Lupus Initiative's unique collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Offices of Minority Health, Women's Health, and the Surgeon General.

Campaign to fund Rheumatoid Arthritis research surpasses $30 million goal

The Within Our Reach: Finding a Cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis campaign has surpassed its initial $30 million goal. Led by the American College of Rheumatology Research and Education Foundation, the campaign has raised $30,719,054, awarded 54 grants, published over 140 papers in peer-reviewed journals and given over 300 presentations at meetings worldwide. Just as rheumatoid arthritis research continues, so will the REF's fundraising and grant making work in this important area. In the coming months, the REF will announce its next phase of work aimed at finding a cure for RA