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Carol Eustice

Early Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms: Predicting the Risk

By February 1, 2007

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Onset of early rheumatoid arthritis symptoms often appears as "undifferentiated arthritis", meaning that symptoms do not present enough evidence for a doctor to offer a definitive diagnosis. In such cases, doctors are confronted by the dilemma of whether to treat the patient aggressively or conservatively. Of patients with undifferentiated arthritis, about 40-50 percent have spontaneous remission of symptoms while one-third develop rheumatoid arthritis. The remainder may develop other types of rheumatic diseases. Early treatment of rheumatoid arthritis can reduce joint damage and prevent disability but medications used to treat the disease are not without risk.

According to the February 2007 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism, Dutch researchers report that 9 variables are important for identifying patients who are at the highest risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis:

The researchers developed a scoring method which may help primary care doctors decide which patients should be referred to a rheumatologist (a doctor who specializes in treating arthritis and rheumatic diseases). Rheumatologists commonly evaluate patients based on these factors.

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