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Study shows historical differences in outcomes for people with arthritis

Published on 03 May 2018
Study shows historical differences in outcomes for people with arthritis

A new study has shed light on how outcomes for people diagnosed with arthritis since the turn of the century compare to those diagnosed in the 1990s.

The study, published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, examines how disease activity, disability and mortality have changed over time for people with early inflammatory arthritis. Using data from the ‘Norfolk Arthritis Register (NOAR)’, the researchers compared outcomes for 1,022 people recruited between 1990 and 1994, to outcomes for another 631 people recruited from 2000 to 2004.

The team looked at factors such as swollen and tender joints and disability levels among the two groups. They also compared ten-year mortality levels and the risk of cardiovascular mortality.

Interesting historical findings
The study showed that disease activity - measured by the number of swollen joints - was 17 per cent lower for the more recently recruited patients. However, pain (ie, number of tender joints) and disability appeared to be much the same for both groups.

No significant difference in mortality rate was found beyond what has been seen in the general population.

The study was led by Dr James Gwinnutt and Dr Suzanne Verstappen at the Arthritis Research UK Centre for Epidemiology. NOAR is led by Professor Alex MacGregor from the University of East Anglia.

Dr Verstappen said: "The results show the value of investing in long-term observational studies in patient populations with chronic diseases”.

"The findings shown in this study could be due to both better medical care and an increased awareness across the public of the need for healthy living. What is interesting is that this reduction in disease activity has not translated into improvements in disability for patients in the new millennium compared to ten years previously.

"More research is needed to better understand the reasons why patients report the same disability, while having less disease activity."

Arthritis Research UK's view
Dr Natalie Carter, head of research liaison and evaluation at Arthritis Research UK, said: "It is very positive that disease activity among people with rheumatoid arthritis is down, and life expectancy is up in line with the general population. However, more research is needed to understand why, despite this progress, people are still experiencing the same disability as a result of the condition.

"This disability can stop people being able to do things most of us take for granted, like to going to work, washing or cooking independently. That's why we are determined to continue investing in the search for new treatments to help people regain their everyday independence."

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