An vital subject to grasp as you put together for the Inside Medication Board or ABIM examination is Rheumatoid Arthritis.


Not like the similar-sounding dysfunction osteoarthritis (which was final week’s illness profile), rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a situation that may wreck havoc past the joint areas. It’s an autoimmune, systemic, power, and inflammatory course of. As a result of it’s an autoimmune illness, a particular antibody will normally be current (keep tuned for the analysis part). Antibodies have the flexibility to disseminate by means of the bloodstream to completely different tissues and organs; due to this fact, making the situation systemic. Though many organs will be harmed by RA, the synovial joints are primarily affected. Being inflammatory in nature, RA can characteristic morning stiffness lasting longer than 60 minutes, with accompanying swelling, and joints that may be purple, heat, and tender to the touch. If a synovial fluid evaluation is completed, the white blood cell depend from the synovial fluid might be within the inflammatory vary of 5000-50,000 WBC/uL.

Though no recognized trigger exists for RA, many consultants imagine that antigens set off an inflammatory response in inclined people. Smoking can improve possibilities of creating RA. The perfect recognized genetic mechanism for the event of RA is the presence of HLA-DRB1 *0401 or HLA-DRB1 *0404. When genetically inclined people have a putative antigen, the synovial macrophages act as antigen presenting cells by means of HLA-DR to activate T cells. Since RA is primarily a T cell mediated situation, it is rather uncommon to see RA in HIV sufferers whose T cells will be depleted. B cells launch autoantibodies to the putative antigen, secrete pro-inflammatory cytokines, and may also act as antigen presenting cells. Though a number of cytokines are launched or concerned the pathogenesis of RA, tumor necrosis issue alpha (TNF-alpha) is probably the most infamous and demanding cytokine that initiates and perpetuates the inflammatory cascade in RA. Subsequently, TNF-alpha inhibitors play a significant position within the administration of this situation.


As you put together for the ABIM examination, it is very important perceive how a analysis of Rheumatoid Arthritis is made.

The analysis of RA is each medical and based mostly on laboratory findings. It’s a power, symmetrical, poly-articular, systemic situation. 4 or extra of the next diagnostic standards are required for the analysis of rheumatoid arthritis:

  • Morning stiffness higher than one hour
  • Swelling of the wrist, MCP, or PIP joints for greater than six weeks
  • Symmetrical involvement
  • Presence of rheumatoid issue (constructive in 85% of circumstances)
  • Presence of rheumatoid nodules
  • X-ray findings displaying marginal bony erosions

DIP joint and the decrease again are normally not concerned with rheumatoid arthritis. The presence of anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP) antibodies within the blood could be very particular (90-95%) for rheumatoid arthritis; due to this fact, the presence of this antibody enhances the chance that a person has rheumatoid arthritis. Lively illness from the synovium can unfold and trigger extra-articular manifestations.

These extra-articular manifestations can have an effect on the center inflicting constrictive pericarditis or myocarditis.

With lung involvement, pleural effusions, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, or interstitial fibrosis can develop. When pleural effusion happens due to rheumatoid arthritis, the effusion might be an exudative effusion with glucose ranges normally lower than 30 mg/dl from the effusion.

Sufferers can develop anemia of power illness. With anemia of power illness, we will see regular to low iron ranges, decreased TIBC stage, and elevated ferritin stage.

Ulceration of the fingers and toes can happen secondary to vascular involvement, resulting in necrosis.

Foot drop or wrist drop can happen due to neuropathy. Sufferers may also develop carpal tunnel or tarsal tunnel syndrome from RA.

Eye involvement can result in scleritis or episcleritis.

Pores and skin involvement will trigger the commonest extra-articular manifestation to happen: rheumatoid nodules.

If renal involvement happens, it’s normally on the late phases of RA. Sufferers can develop amyloid nephropathy or nephrotic syndrome. When rheumatoid arthritis impacts C1-C2 stage of the cervical backbone, it could actually result in atlanto-odontoid subluxation. This subluxation can compress the vertebrobasilar artery system, which results in syncopal signs. With compression of the cervical spinal twine, there will be each motor and sensory compromise. If the lesion is both lower than 5 mm or the affected person is asymptomatic, remedy is normally not required. Nevertheless, if the lesion is both higher than or equal to eight mm or the person has signs, surgical decompression is required for remedy.

Poor prognostic components for rheumatoid arthritis can greatest be understood by dividing into three classes: joint involvement, lab findings, and extra-articular manifestations. With joint involvement, progressive synovitis (worsening swelling or irritation) or joint house loss/erosions on x-ray point out poor prognostic components. Lab findings of elevated rheumatoid issue, elevated ESR (indicating irritation), and presence of HLA-DR4 point out poor prognostic components. Lastly, one extra-articular manifestation that predicts poor prognostic issue can also be the commonest extra-articular manifestation of RA as described above: rheumatoid nodules. One other extra-articular manifestation that predicts poor prognostic issue is ulceration of fingers and toes because of vasculitis.


Administration of circumstances and ailments is a crucial a part of the Inside Medication Board (ABIM) examination.

Administration of RA is normally achieved by means of drugs. With delicate RA, remedy normally will be initiated with NSAIDS, sulfasalazine, or the anti-malarrial medicine hydroxychloroquine. When NSAIDS are used for administration of RA, they need to be taken with meals and/or with proton pump inhibitors to stop abdomen ulcers or gastritis from occurring. People who’ve allergic reactions to sulfa shouldn’t be given sulfasalazine. Those that are being handled with hydroxychloroquine for RA ought to endure frequent eye examinations as this medicine may cause macular harm, especailly with renal dysfunction.

If affected person’s signs are usually not managed with the above drugs, then additional remedy is warranted. Reasonable to extreme rheumatoid arthritis will be managed with methotrexate, leflunomide, or steroids. When methotrexate is used for reasonable to extreme RA, CBC and liver operate exams ought to be monitored each six-eight weeks to detect early indicators of anemia or hepatotoxicity. Additionally, methotrexate administration ought to be accompanied by folic acid to stop folate deficiency. Hypersensitivity pneumonitis and/or pulmonary fibrosis might consequence from methotrexate use.

Leflunomide can also be used to handle reasonable to extreme RA. Leflunomide is teratogenic and unwanted effects embody myelosuppression, hepatotoxicity, rash, diarrhea, and alopecia.

Steroids are used to manage the irritation related to RA however ought to be prevented long run due to a foul side-effect profile, together with hyperglycemia, hypertension, osteoporosis, and Cushing syndrome.

When these drugs don’t management the ache related to RA, then we carry out the “huge weapons” to assist handle RA. As TNF-alpha is a significant pro-inflammatory cytokine concerned within the pathogenesis of RA. Subsequently, TNF-alpha inhibitors can now be used to manage very extreme signs of RA. Earlier than initiating remedy with TNF-alpha inhibitors, a PPD check must be executed to be sure that a affected person doesn’t have pre-existing tuberculosis. Among the commonest TNF-alpha inhibitors which are used are etanercept, infliximab, or adalimumab. If one TNF-alpha inhibitor just isn’t controlling RA signs, it ought to be switched to a different TNF-alpha inhibitor, which is able to normally assist management the signs. Two or extra TNF-alpha inhibitors ought to NEVER be used concurrently as this mix can compromise the mandatory inflammatory response to battle off infections.


Source by Sunir Kumar, M.D.


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