Inflammatory arthritis: an overview for primary care physicians

Postgrad Med. 2009 Mar;121(2):148-62. doi: 10.3810/pgm.2009.03.1987.


Continuing advances in the treatment of inflammatory arthritides such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), ankylosing spondylitis (AS), and psoriatic arthritis (PsA) have made remission a realistic goal for patients. Despite these advances, early diagnosis of inflammatory arthritis by primary care physicians (PCPs) and subsequent referral to a rheumatologist remain a challenge. Delayed diagnosis and referral, which may extend to several years in some cases, may lead to irreversible joint destruction and compromised function. The aim of this review is to aid PCPs in preventing the potential delay in disease recognition and patient referral by highlighting the currently accepted criteria for disease activity, clinical response, and remission of RA, AS, and PsA. In addition, a discussion of the benefits and risks of the currently approved traditional disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs and biologic treatments, and the importance of comanagement of these conditions across specialties, will be addressed. Because PCPs are often the first point of contact for disease recognition, they can play a critical role in the management of these patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Arthritis / diagnosis
  • Arthritis / drug therapy
  • Arthritis, Psoriatic* / diagnosis
  • Arthritis, Psoriatic* / drug therapy
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid* / diagnosis
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid* / drug therapy
  • Continuity of Patient Care
  • Humans
  • Primary Health Care
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Spondylitis, Ankylosing* / diagnosis
  • Spondylitis, Ankylosing* / drug therapy


  • Antirheumatic Agents