Background: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) often has a major impact on many areas of an individuals’ life. The unpredictability of the prognosis as well as the day-to-day symptoms make it impossible to plan ahead. The aim of this study was to identify the domains of concern in the early course of RA.
Methods: Interviews were carried out according to the focus group method. Twenty-three patients with RA, aged between 27 and 67 years and with a disease duration ranging from 1 to 5 years, were included. Four groups were established, the composition of which was based on age, gender and social situation.
Results: Arthritis had a major impact on daily life of the patients, especially on the way they performed activities. It also strongly influenced their mood and social life. The participants tried to cope by ‘dosing their activities’, ‘using new strategies’ or to ‘stretching their limits’. Their sense of helplessness and uncertainty led to both ‘anger’ and ‘depression’. When activities could no longer be maintained, the role positioning in the family also changed.
Conclusion: The results of this study support the view that more psychosocial support is required to encourage the recently diagnosed RA patient in the new situation of having a chronic disease.