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Abstract

Prevalence and incidence rates for rheumatic diseases were found to be minimal among the Inuit people in the Keewatin District of the Northwest Territories, Canada. Patient identification was achieved by a review of medical records. All identified patients were interviewed and examined by a participating rheumatologist. Among women, the prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis, adjusted for age of the Manitoba population, was 1,822 per 100,000 and was comparable with that observed in other populations; no cases of rheumatoid arthritis in men were confirmed. The age-adjusted prevalence of osteoarthritis, 1,219 per 100,000 in men and 2,144 per 100,000 in women, was apparently low. A moderately high incidence of Reiter's syndrome, 24.9 per 100,000, was found. The findings in children suggested a high frequency of seronegative spondylarthropathies (yearly incidence 60.1 per 100,000), although the adjusted yearly incidence for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis also appeared to be high, 23.6 per 100,000. The frequencies of HLA antigens in patient groups were compared with those found in 19 patients with musculoskeletal complaints but no rheumatic disease. Both HLA-B27 and HLA-DR4 appeared to be common in these controls, 36.8% and 63.2%, respectively. Nevertheless, there was a higher frequency of HLA-B27 in patients with seronegative spondylarthropathies (87%) than in controls (P = 0.001). Because of the small numbers of patients who had rheumatoid arthritis, no associations with HLA were made for this condition. Although the findings suggest differences in the distribution of rheumatic diseases compared with those found in other populations, more complete studies are required to confirm these observations.