-- Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, Nov. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Early assessment of
rheumatoid arthritis can reduce the amount of joint damage and
improve the likelihood of disease remission without having to take
disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, known as DMARDs, new
Although DMARDs are considered effective in treating rheumatoid
arthritis, especially when other treatments don't work, they have
been linked to uncommon but serious side effects.
The study included 1,674 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, or
RA, who were followed-up for six years after diagnosis. The median
time from the onset of symptoms until a patient was assessed by a
rheumatologist was 13.7 weeks.
Patients who were seen by a rheumatologist 12 or more weeks
after RA symptoms began had a joint destruction rate 1.3 times
higher than patients assessed within 12 weeks. A delay in
assessment and treatment was also associated with a 1.87 times
greater risk of not achieving a remission free of DMARD drugs.
The study is published in the December issue of the journal
Arthritis & Rheumatism.
"Early treatment intervention dramatically improves clinical outcomes in patients with RA," Dr. Michael van der Linden, of the Leiden University Medical Center, said in a news release from the journal's publisher. "Our study presents the first evidence that RA patients who have a delay longer than 12 weeks between first symptoms and visiting a rheumatologist have a higher rate of joint destruction and lower chance of achieving a sustained DMARD-free remission."
The findings "highlight the importance of reducing the delay in
assessment by a rheumatologist and further studies could test
whether accelerated treatment leads to improved disease outcomes in
RA," van der Linden concluded.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about
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