Eighty-nine patients, 33 men and 56 women, with early definite rheumatoid arthritis were followed for 2 years. Two-thirds were seropositive. About 1/3 were eventually treated with second line drugs. The disease mostly had an insidious onset initially involving the finger joints. Early remission occurred in 16%. Patient relevant measures such as pain, patient's overall assessment of disease activity and anxiety decreased significantly. Disability evaluated by the HAQ disability index remained at a low level. The joint damage score (JDS) in hands and feet increased steadily and only 18% were nonerosive after 2 years. One-third developed hand deformities which was associated with higher JDS. A joint function index (SOFI) correlated significantly with JDS. Twenty-eight percent had a slower rate of joint damage progression the second year. There was no significant correlation between JDS and disease duration. Six patients developed rapidly progressive damage in larger joints, five in the hip joints and one in the shoulder joint, all requiring joint replacement. The ability to predict outcomes with clinical and laboratory variable obtained at entry was of limited clinical usefulness. By applying discriminant analyses 67%-80% of the cases who fared worst regarding clinical, functional, and radiological features could be correctly classified.