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Keywords:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis;
  • inflammation;
  • rheumatoid factor;
  • disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs

Purpose

To provide primary care providers with guidelines on the evaluation, diagnosis and management of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Data sources

Research-based articles in the medical literature, review articles, and clinical practice guidelines.

Conclusion

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects mainly synovial joints. Diagnosis is based primarily on clinical examination. Clinical criteria developed by the American Rheumatism Association can help the primary care provider recognize this potentially devastating disease and facilitate early referral to a rheumatologist for treatment.

Implications for Practice:

Patients with RA should be treated early and aggressively. Laboratory tests are not essential to confirm the diagnosis of RA. The clinical usefulness of the rheumatoid factor could be increased by restricting the test to patients who have a high probability of RA based on clinical symptoms.