Rheumatoid arthritis represents an excellent model in which to gain insights into the local and systemic effects of joint inflammation on skeletal tissues. Three forms of bone disease have been described in rheumatoid arthritis. These include: focal bone loss affecting the immediate subchondral bone and bone at the joint margins; periarticular osteopenia adjacent to inflamed joints; and generalized osteoporosis involving the axial and appendicular skeleton. Although these three forms of bone loss have several features in common, careful histomorphometric and histopathological analysis of bone tissues from different skeletal sites, as well as the use of urinary and serum biochemical markers of bone remodeling, provide compelling evidence that different mechanisms are involved in their pathogenesis. An understanding of these distinct pathological forms of bone loss has relevance not only with respect to gaining insights into the different pathological mechanisms, but also for developing specific and effective strategies for preventing the different forms of bone loss in rheumatoid arthritis.