Rheumatology diseases are caused due to autoimmunity, and the treatments focus mainly on reducing the inflammation. Rheumatoid arthritis is one such common condition, and its early detection is important as it reduces the risk of adverse long-term effects like joint damage. However, this is not always easy as many rare diseases resemble common ailments during their initial stages. Often, delayed diagnosis is one of the main reasons for the reduced effectiveness of treatments for rheumatoid diseases. Read on to know about the importance of early diagnosis in rheumatoid arthritis.
What Does The Research Say?
Research has shown that more than half the patients with nonspecific musculoskeletal pains were tested positive for RA specific anti-citrullinated protein antibodies (ACPA). People with a risk score between 3 and 5 usually progressed to develop RA. On the contrary, if the score is 0, they did not progress.
Researchers suggest that identifying potential RA patients in the earliest stage of the disease is the best way to get a positive clinical outcome. Not only that but also this opens the window for starting preventive therapy that can significantly reduce the chances of developing this condition.
The Therapeutic Window
In rheumatoid arthritis, the synovial tissue lining the joints are inflamed due to autoimmunity. In the beginning, it affects the small joints like those of fingers and toes, and as the disease progresses, it affects large joints like knees and elbows. This can cause lasting structural damages if the symptoms are left untreated. Surveys have shown that the early diagnosis and administering of disease modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) led to the reduction in the rate of long-term progression of the disease. On the contrary, this rate is higher in patients who initiated the treatment later. It is obvious from these details that there is a critical period when initiating rheumatoid arthritis treatment which gives maximum benefit in both the short-term and long term.
What Are Obstacles To Early Diagnosis Of RA?
The main obstacle in the early diagnosis of rheumatology arthritis is that its symptoms are non-specific. Because of this, they are easily overlooked by primary care. This can be overcome by primary care doctors looking specifically for symptoms in ACPA positive patients with musculoskeletal issues. Furthermore, this two-pronged approach increases both the effectiveness of RA treatment and the long-term quality of life of RA patients.
On a final note, experts suggest that primary care doctors must rapidly refer to a rheumatologist if they suspect early RA symptoms in their patients.