Introduction: Very few studies carried out with Latin American populations on the demographic and clinical characteristics of patients diagnosed with early rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can be found in the literature.
Objective: To characterize a population of patients with early RA, prospectively followed, concerning demographic and clinical aspects and compare them with other similar cohorts.
Patients and methods: The data presented are part of an incident cohort prospective study, in which 65 patients with early RA were evaluated and followed regularly for 36 months at the Early Rheumatoid Arthritis Outpatient Clinic of the University Hospital of Brasília (HUB, from the Portuguese). The demographic and clinical data of the initial evaluation, including general characteristics, clinical history, and physical examination were recorded. Descriptive statistics of the variables was applied.
Results: Women (86%) with a mean age of 45.6 years, Caucasian or Black (47.6%), belonging to intermediate-low social classes (53.85%), with 8.3 years of schooling, predominated. The presenting symptoms of the majority of patients were acute (76.9%), with polyarticular onset (69.2%), persistent synovitis of the hands (90.7%), and prolonged morning stiffness (157 minutes on average). Patients had a high average score of painful (18.6) and swollen (13.9) joints and high prevalence of rheumatoid nodules (15.3%), which suggests disease with aggressive presentation in its initial phases.
Conclusion: The demographic and clinical characteristics of patients enrolled in this Brazilian cohort differed, on several aspects, from previously published North American, European, and Latin American cohorts.