Rheumatoid arthritis: a medical emergency?

Scand J Rheumatol Suppl. 1994;100:21-30. doi: 10.3109/03009749409095198.


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), previously considered to be a benign controllable disease with a good prognosis in the majority of patients, is now known to be a severe, progressive disease in terms of radiographic damage, severe functional deterioration, progressive work disability and premature mortality. The traditional approach to RA therapy (from less toxic to more toxic drugs) is inadequate and the risk of drug toxicity is generally overestimated while that of severe disease is underestimated. Consequently, aggressive treatment could be considered in an attempt to reverse the inflammation prior to long-term end-organ damage, rather than in response to such damage. As patients with RA may progress to an anticipated 5-year survival similar to that in patients with cardiovascular or neoplastic disease, RA should be viewed as an urgent medical problem--a "medical emergency"--in order to control the long-term consequences of the disease process.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid* / drug therapy
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid* / mortality
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid* / physiopathology
  • Disease Progression
  • Emergencies
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / drug therapy
  • Prognosis
  • Time Factors