Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Catherine Burt Driver, MD, is board certified in internal medicine and rheumatology by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Driver is a member of the American College of Rheumatology. She currently is in active practice in the field of rheumatology in Mission Viejo, Calif., where she is a partner in Mission Internal Medical Group.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints. While inflammation of the tissue around the joints and inflammatory arthritis are characteristic features of rheumatoid arthritis, the disease can also cause inflammation and injury in other organs in the body. Autoimmune diseases are illnesses that occur when the body's tissues are mistakenly attacked by their own immune system. The immune system contains a complex organization of cells and antibodies designed normally to "seek and destroy" invaders of the body, particularly infections. Patients with autoimmune diseases have antibodies in their blood that target their own body tissues, where they can be associated with inflammation. Because it can affect multiple other organs of the body, rheumatoid arthritis is referred to as a systemic illness and is sometimes called rheumatoid disease.
Picture of a joint with rheumatoid arthritis
While rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic
illness, meaning it can last for years, patients may experience long
periods without symptoms. However, rheumatoid arthritis is typically a progressive illness that has the potential to cause joint destruction and functional disability.
A joint is where two bones meet to allow movement of body
parts. Arthritis means joint inflammation. The joint inflammation of rheumatoid
arthritis causes swelling, pain, stiffness, and redness in the
joints. The inflammation of rheumatoid disease can also occur in tissues around the
joints, such as the tendons, ligaments, and muscles.
In some people with
rheumatoid arthritis, chronic inflammation leads to the destruction of the cartilage, bone, and ligaments, causing
deformity of the joints. Damage to the joints can occur early in the disease and be progressive. Moreover, studies have shown that the progressive damage to the joints does not necessarily correlate with the degree of pain, stiffness, or swelling present in the joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a common rheumatic disease, affecting approximately 1.3 million people in the United States, according to current census data. The disease is three times more common in women as in men. It afflicts people of all races equally. The disease can begin at any age and even affects children (juvenile rheumatoid arthritis), but it most often starts after 40 years of age and before 60 years of age. In some families, multiple members can be affected, suggesting a genetic basis for the disorder.
Reviewed by Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD on 4/16/2013
Are there any particular foods which should be included or excluded from the diet of an individual suffering from arthritis?
First, there are many forms of arthritis, each of which differ in the do's and don'ts of diet. So, the answer is that it depends to some degree on the form of arthritis.
Persons with gouty arthritis should tend to avoid red meats, shellfish, alcohol, and dehydration. At the same time, dairy products such as low-fat milk and yogurt, as well as adequate hydration, are encouraged in persons with gout. Persons with inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, may benefit by taking the omega-3 fatty acids that are in the oils of fish, particularly salmon. Those with osteoarthritis might benefit from the food supplement glucosamine.