Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis Now Have Better Access to Care\
St. Luke’s Rheumatology Associates recently added two new specialists to better serve patients suffering from autoimmune and inflammatory conditions affecting joints, muscles and bones like gout, systemic lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, vasculitis, and the spondyloarthopathies like psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. Rheumatologist Emily Keeler, DO, will see patients at the practices in Easton and Bethlehem, and Farheen Jaffari, MD, will treat patients at the Phillipsburg and Belvidere locations.
One of the most common reasons patients visit a rheumatologist is for rheumatoid arthritis or RA. RA is a chronic disease that causes pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints, most commonly in the hands and feet. The specific causes of RA are unknown, though smoking increases the risk and severity of the disease. It can lead to long-term disability and reduced life span if left untreated. “Women are affected by rheumatoid arthritis two to three times more often than men,” explains Dr. Keeler. “It can occur at any age, but the peak onset is between the ages of 25 to 50.”
Rheumatoid arthritis typically begins as a slow process, progressing over weeks to months. Early symptoms may include fatigue, low grade fever and weight loss, before patients experience joint pain, swelling and stiffness.
“Treatment, which should be tailored to each patient's individual case, plays a key role in controlling inflammation and minimizing joint damage,” says Dr. Jaffari. “Treatment usually entails a combination of drug therapy and non-drug therapies such as physical therapy and new biologic drugs which have created a new era of treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.” With early treatment, most people with rheumatoid arthritis can avoid joint deformities and major disability.
Unfortunately, there is no known way to prevent rheumatoid arthritis and there is no cure. “Early treatment has been linked to better long-term outcomes for patients,” emphasizes Dr. Keeler. “Research has found that there exists a ‘window of opportunity’ to begin treatment for RA that is associated with better rates of remission and preventing long-term joint damage. Ideally, we try to start treatment within 12 weeks of diagnosis, so we have to act fast to get the best results.”
Dr. Jaffari is a rheumatologist specializing in treatment of autoimmune and bone and joint disorders and a member of the American College of Rheumatology. She comes to St. Luke’s Rheumatology Associates after completing her fellowship in rheumatology at the State University of New York Upstate. She attended medical school at Kasturba Medical College in Manipal, India and completed a residency in internal medicine at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
Prior to joining St. Luke’s, Dr. Keeler completed her undergraduate training at the University of Scranton, where she earned degrees in both neuroscience and philosophy. She completed her medical education at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, and her internal medicine training at St. Luke's before finishing her specialty training in rheumatology at Penn State Hershey Medical Center.
To make an appointment to see Dr. Jaffari or Dr. Keeler, please call 484-503-0055.