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A Role in the Diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis



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Epidemiologic Features of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Slide 4

September 2008

Connective tissue diseases in general are relatively common disorders. Within this group of diseases, Rheumatoid Arthritis is one of the most common. In Caucasian populations in the US and Western Europe, the prevalence of Rheumatoid Arthritis is approx 1%. The prevalence is lower in other populations, such as what we see in some Asian countries. However, Rheumatoid Arthritis has been found at increased prevalences in some North American Indian tribes.

There is a gender bias in Rheumatoid Arthritis as is seen in many auto-immune diseases. Rheumatoid Arthritis is two to three times more common in females than males. Although this is thought to be related to hormonal differences, the specific cause to this bias is not known.

There is a genetic component to Rheumatoid Arthritis also. Individuals with a history of autoimmune disease in their family or individuals with a first-degree relative with Rheumatoid Arthritis are more at-risk for developing the disease.

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a multigenic disease, meaning that the affect of many genes combined to cause the disease. The largest known genetic contributor to Rheumatoid Arthritis is the HLA complex. There are specific HLA-DR alleles that are known to be associated with an increased risk of the development of the disease.  However, it is important to remember that possession of these alleles is not sufficient to develop the disease as other genes certainly play a role.

An important piece of information to remember is that Rheumatoid Arthritis is associated with significant morbidity and mortality. It has been clearly demonstrated that patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis have a shortened life expectancy as compared to the general population, much of which is probably related to the extra-articular aspects of the disease. To minimize this, early diagnosis and prompt treatment is critical.

Epidemiologic Features

 


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