Quality of life for rheumatoid arthritis patients 'has improved since 1990'

Published on 03 December 2013
Quality of life for rheumatoid arthritis patients 'has improved since 1990'

Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are generally experiencing a higher quality of life today than people diagnosed with the disease 20 years ago.

This is according to a new study from the Utrecht University in the Netherlands, which recruited 1,151 people with newly-diagnosed RA between 1990 and 2011. Participants were 17 to 86 years of age and each person was assessed at the time of diagnosis, before being monitored for the following three to five years.

Results published in the medical journal Arthritis Care & Research reveal that after the first four years of treatment 20 years ago, 23 per cent of RA patients reported suffering from anxiety, 25 per cent experience a depressed mood and 53 per cent had a physical disability.

These percentages have fallen to 12 per cent, 14 per cent and 31 per cent respectively today, with the scientists attributing these declines at least in part to reduced disease activity levels.

It means that currently only around one-quarter of newly-diagnosed RA patients are disabled after the first four years of treatment, while 20 years ago, this proportion was closer to one-half.

The team attributed this positive development to the increased availability of improved treatment options, including early therapy intervention, the use of biologics and more intensive treatments.

Lead author Cecile Overman, a PhD candidate from Utrecht University, said: "Earlier diagnosis and more intensive interventions, along with recommendations to live a full life and to be physically active, may help improve daily living for those with RA."

A spokeswoman for Arthritis Research UK said: "It's great news that people with RA are experiencing such an improved quality of life compared to 20 years ago. As well as earlier diagnosis and aggressive early treatment, the emergence of biologic drugs such as anti-TNF therapies - which were pioneered and developed by our scientists - has undoubtedly played a significant part in this improvement."