Better outcomes with early arthritis diagnosis
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 anti-rheumatic drugs, known as DMARDs.
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.
Researchers studied 1,674 patients in UK with rheumatoid arthritis (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 higher risk of not achieving a remission free of DMARD drugs.
Early treatment intervention dramatically improves clinical outcomes in patients with RA. The above 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 are needed to test whether accelerated treatment leads to improved disease outcomes in RA.
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