Objective: To provide a description and identify risk factors for functional disability in early rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods: A cohort of 337 patients with early RA with disease duration under 5 years was constituted in 2 areas in France and The Netherlands. Examination included the Ritchie index, the presence of nodes and other extraarticular manifestations, and the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR). The Health Assessment Questionnaire, adapted and validated in the French and Dutch languages, was used to assess functional disability.
Results: The results allowed for the cross sectional description of a marked early functional disability, with a score of 1 (adjusted for disease activity variables) from the first year of the disease. Functional disability was increasing nonlinearly with the disease duration in a quadratic model. Disease activity variables, namely ESR and Ritchie index, were identified as other important components of functional disability.
Conclusion: Consequences for the early management of RA are underlined.