Rheumatoid arthritis in the elderly: Characteristics and treatment considerations

Autoimmun Rev. 2020 Jun;19(6):102528. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2020.102528. Epub 2020 Mar 29.


The elderly rheumatoid arthritis (RA) population consists of both elderly-onset RA that manifests after the age of 60 and individuals diagnosed with RA early in life who age naturally to become members of this group. The elderly RA population is expanding due to both increased life expectancy and an increased incidence of elderly onset RA. Elderly onset RA seems to have a characteristic clinical pattern and perhaps biological profile different to that of early onset RA. The management of RA in elderly patients can be challenging, as robust treat-to-target approaches must be balanced against the adverse events due to increased comorbidities in old age. This produces a tendency to prefer less aggressive treatment in elderly RA patients in clinical practice. Despite the concerns about adverse events, there is limited evidence on the best way to approach RA in this population, as elderly patients are often not well presented in the clinical trials. Herein, we review the literature to assess the efficacy and safety of RA therapies in this age group. We then suggest a tailored approach that can be adopted in clinical practice, based on the disease severity and risk profiles of elderly RA patients.

Keywords: Biological age; Comorbidities; Elderly; Elderly onset; Rheumatoid arthritis; Treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antirheumatic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antirheumatic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / therapy*
  • Comorbidity
  • Humans


  • Antirheumatic Agents