The Latest in Arthritis Research, Treatment, and Diagnosis

If you have arthritis, you are not alone. The Arthritis Foundation estimates that nearly one in five adults in the United States has arthritis, a blanket term that refers to more than 100 diseases that produce joint inflammation. They include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, and fibromyalgia.

Some seniors accept the pain and stiffness of arthritis as an inevitable consequence of aging, but in some instances it can become debilitating. As a result, hundreds of thousands of men and women each year opt to undergo a total knee or hip replacement operation to alleviate the symptoms.

With the incidence of arthritis due to rise as baby boomers age, thousands of researchers around the world are trying to identify the fundamental biological malfunctions that cause the disease, hoping to set the stage for better, less radical, and less expensive treatment. For instance, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have uncovered a series of events in the cell that triggers the immune system to cause inflammation in arthritis sufferers. Block this sequence, and you may be able to reduce the symptoms of arthritis.

Thanks to these breakthroughs and others like them, there are a number of new medications for arthritis in clinical trials, the testing process that all drugs go through before they can be put on the market. One of these medications, ARCALYSTâ„¢, has been shown to significantly reduce the number of joint flares in patients with gout. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis also have reason for hope. ACTEMRAâ„¢ is the first drug that limits the activity of a protein in the body's immune system itself. It is expected to go through a final FDA review later this year.

Scientists have also unveiled a new test for osteoarthritis, providing an alternative to the traditional X-ray. The problem with X-rays is that they reveal the presence of arthritis only after significant cartilage damage has already occurred. The new test, developed by researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health, uses an MRI to measure the amount of a substance required for healthy cartilage. Once it is perfected, the test will help physicians diagnose arthritis earlier and treat it more effectively.