Spotlight Shines Light on Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that occurs when your body’s immune system mistakenly stops protecting your health from foreign substances and begins to attack your joints. According to the Mayo Clinic, the negative health impacts of the chronic inflammatory disease may not stop there: “In some people, the condition also can damage a wide variety of body systems, including the skin, eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels.”

If you are experiencing joint inflammation, pain, fatigue, loss of appetite or even a low-grade fever, it may be time to schedule an appoint with a rheumatologist. In addition to rheumatoid arthritis, other common diseases treated by rheumatologists include osteoarthritis, gout, chronic back pain, tendinitis and lupus.

In a recent spotlight piece from the Richmond-Times Dispatch, Dr. Aarat M. Patel of Bon Secours Arthritis and Osteoporosis Center of Richmond explained rheumatoid arthritis, its differences from osteoarthritis and new treatments that can halt joint destruction:

In rheumatology, we treat rheumatoid arthritis – which is often confused with osteoarthritis but is very different. Osteoarthritis is the result of wear and tear on the joints, and it is the most common type of degenerative joint disease. It affects knees, shoulders, wrists and hips, and it can be caused by trauma, repetitive motion and recurrent minor damage to a joint. Genetics and weight also can play a role. But rheumatoid arthritis — an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its own joints and tissues — is much less common. RA can begin with fatigue and a general sense of not feeling well, along with weight loss. Eventually, people experience chronic inflammation of the joints, which causes swelling, pain, stiffness and redness. This usually affects joints on both sides of the body in one’s hands, wrists or knees (whereas osteoarthritis might affect only one side). In the past, RA was treated with DMARDs, which stands for disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs. Today, though, we have biologic agents available, which are genetically engineered to act on the immune system. Used with DMARDs, these biologics can be very effective for moderate to severe RA. Although they do not “cure” the disease, they can lead to remission, with the joint destruction process halted and symptoms reduced to minimal.

Dr. Patel received his undergraduate degree from the State University of New York at Albany before earning his medical degree from Ross University School of Medicine and completing his internal medicine and pediatric residency at Stony Brook University Medical Center. In addition, Dr. Patel completed a rheumatology fellowship in both adult and pediatric rheumatology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Dr. Patel is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in internal medicine and rheumatology. He is also board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics in pediatrics and pediatric rheumatology. Dr. Patel is on faculty at the University of Virginia in the Department of Pediatrics. He has a special interest in dermatomyositis/polymyositis, localized scleroderma and vasculitis.

Bon Secours Arthritis and Osteoporosis Center of Richmond Services

  • Early detection for arthritis/osteoporosis
  • Patient education and prevention techniques
  • Joint injections
  • Evaluation of children and adults with prolonged joint pain, weakness, rash or fever
  • Diagnosis and management of common and rare rheumatic diseases
  • Specialized expertise and active research interests in rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile arthritis and localized scleroderma
  • Treatment of the following diseases:
    • Osteoarthritis
    • Gout (prevention of flare)
    • Sjögrens (management of dry eyes and dry mouth)
    • Inflammatory muscle disease (diagnosis, management and prevention of organ damage)


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