Scientists are making rapid progress in understanding the complexities of rheumatoid arthritis. They are learning more about how and why it develops and why some people have more severe symptoms than others.
Research efforts are focused on developing drugs that can reduce inflammation and slow or stop the disease with few side effects.
Identifying Possible Triggers
Some evidence shows that infectious agents, such as viruses and bacteria, may contribute to triggering rheumatoid arthritis in people with an inherited tendency to develop the disease. Investigators are trying to identify the infectious agents and understand how they work. This knowledge could lead to new therapies.
Why More Women Than Men?
Researchers are also exploring why so many more women than men develop rheumatoid arthritis. In the hope of finding clues, they are studying complex relationships between the hormonal, nervous, and immune systems in rheumatoid arthritis.
For example, they are exploring whether and how the normal changes in the levels of steroid hormones such as estrogen and testosterone during a person's lifetime may be related to the development, improvement, or flares of the disease. Scientists are also examining why rheumatoid arthritis often improves during pregnancy.
Interested in Clinical Trials?
The U.S. National Institutes of Health, through its National Library of Medicine and other Institutes, maintains a database of clinical trials at Clinical Trials.gov. To see a list of current clinical trials on rheumatoid arthritis, type "rheumatoid arthritis" into the search box.