Early Bird

Maybe you’ve noticed that you feel a little bit stiff when you get out bed in the morning, or that a few of your joints seem a little achy or swollen. Do you really need to consult a rheumatologist right away, or can you wait it out?

While giving it a few weeks to see if symptoms abate might not be a big deal, don’t wait too long: A new study, presented at the European E-Congress of Rheumatology 2020, held virtually by the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR), found that people with early symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) tend to fare better if they see a rheumatologist within six weeks from the time that symptoms first emerge compared with later on.

The research, which also appears in the journal The Lancet Rheumatology, was an observational study. Scientists examined data on patients who had been diagnosed with RA at the Leiden Early Arthritis Clinic (EAC) in the Netherlands or the French Etude et Suivi des Polyarthrites Indifferenciées Recentes (ESPOIR) in France over a period of many years. They divided patients into three groups based on how much time had passed from the onset of their symptoms until they saw a rheumatologist: within six weeks, between seven and 12 weeks, or more than 12 weeks.

According to their findings, patients who had quickly consulted a rheumatologist (within six weeks) were much more likely to remain in remission for at least a year after stopping disease-modifying medication. However, they were not any more likely to avoid joint damage and deformities (as measured with imaging tests).

“Visiting a rheumatologist within six weeks of symptom onset had benefits for achieving sustained DMARD-free remission, but not for radiographic progression,” the authors concluded.

Found This Study Interesting? Get Involved

If you are diagnosed with arthritis or another musculoskeletal condition, we encourage you to participate in future studies by joining CreakyJoints’ patient research registry, ArthritisPower. ArthritisPower is the first-ever patient-led, patient-centered research registry for joint, bone, and inflammatory skin conditions. Learn more and sign up here.

Niemantsverdriet E, et al. Referring Early Arthritis Patients Within 6 weeks Versus 12 Weeks After Symptom Onset: An Observational Cohort Study. The Lancet Rheumatology. June 2020. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2665-9913(20)30061-8.

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