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New way of classifying rheumatoid arthritis aimed at identifying the disease earlier
Date:8/10/2010

The American College of Rheumatology today announced the release of revised classification criteria (created in collaboration with the European League Against Rheumatism) for rheumatoid arthritis, which will allow the study of treatments for RA at much earlier stages of the diseasebefore joint damage occursultimately leading to better patient outcomes.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease that causes pain, stiffness, swelling, and limitation in the motion and function of multiple joints. Though joints are the principal body parts affected by RA, inflammation can develop in the organs as well. An estimated 1.3 million Americans have RA, and the disease typically affects women twice as often as men.

Classification criteria are the standard and accepted means by which researchers define a disease. They allow researchers to define individuals as having or not having a given disease, helping to standardize recruitment into clinical trials and other research studies. Although not intended as criteria for diagnosis in clinical practice, with some additional research, classification criteria may be modified and adopted for such use.

Classification criteria are typically updated as knowledge changes, which is the case with the new RA criteria published in the College's journal, Arthritis & Rheumatism. The previous criteria were created in 1987. Since that time, new therapies have emerged that can prevent joint damage in people with RA. With these modern therapies, the goal of treatment is to prevent people from reaching the point where their RA is causing chronic damage to their joints.

"The 1987 criteria actually posed a major barrier to the study of treatments designed to prevent joint damage in RA," explains Gillian Hawker, MD; senior author of the new criteria. "Many patients did not fulfill the previous RA classification criteria until their disease was well-advanced, andin many casesjoint damage had already occur
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Contact: Dawn Peters
healthnews@wiley.com
781-388-8408
Wiley-Blackwell
Source:Eurekalert

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