Calcified Tissue International

, Volume 102, Issue 5, pp 533–546 | Cite as

Bone Loss in Rheumatoid Arthritis: Basic Mechanisms and Clinical Implications

  • Jae-hyuck Shim
  • Zheni Stavre
  • Ellen M. Gravallese


Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have historically developed progressive damage of articular bone and cartilage, which correlates with disability over time. In addition, these patients are prone to periarticular and systemic bone loss, carrying additional morbidity. In contrast to what is seen in many other rheumatic diseases, the impact of inflammation on bone in RA is uniquely destructive. Loss of articular bone (erosions) and periarticular bone (demineralization) is a result of excessive bone resorption and markedly limited bone formation. There has been tremendous progress in preventing net bone loss in RA with the advent of disease-modifying agents, including biologic agents and small molecules, that both limit inflammation and may have a direct impact on the prevention of cytokine- and antibody-driven osteoclastogenesis. However, repair of existing bone erosions, although feasible, is observed infrequently. Lack of repair is a consequence of suppression of osteoblast function and bone formation by some of the same mechanisms that promote osteoclastogenesis and bone resorption. As new agents are introduced to control inflammation in RA, and novel mechanisms to target synovitis are identified, it may be possible in the future to fully repair damaged bone.


Osteoclasts Osteoblasts Rheumatoid arthritis Synovitis Erosions 


Conflict of interest

EG reports research Grants from AbbVie Inc. and Eli Lilly and Company, as well as personal fees from GlaxoSmithKline PLC, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, Sanofi Genzyme, and Eli Lilly and Company. She receives royalties from UpToDate. Jae-hyuck Shim and Zheni Stavre declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Rheumatology, Department of MedicineUniversity of Massachusetts Medical SchoolWorcesterUSA

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