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How is Still's Disease different from rheumatoid arthritis?

Q) My partner has just been diagnosed with adult-onset Still’s disease at the age of 36. I’m told this condition is quite rare. Can you tell me how and in what way this is different to rheumatoid arthritis and whether the drugs he'll be taking will be the same as those used in rheumatoid arthritis?
Jennifer, Norfolk (Winter 2007

A) This is an uncommon condition and it often takes time for doctors to make the diagnosis. Still’s disease (named after George Frederick Still, an English paediatrician) usually occurs in children. It causes arthritis, fever, rash and inflammation of internal organs such as the liver, spleen and heart. Rarely, a similar condition occurs in adults but more often, in my experience, causes arthritis (although less severe than rheumatoid arthritis), fever and internal inflammation. In both conditions treatment has been with steroids and methotrexate, both drugs used in rheumatoid arthritis. Also, good results have recently been reported with the newer biological drugs acting against the chemical known as tumour necrosis factor, an important cause of inflammation in these conditions.

This answer was provided by Dr Philip Helliwell for the Winter 2007 edition of our magazine, Arthritis Today, and was correct at the time of publication.

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