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Quality Of Life For RA Patients Improves Over Past Two Decades

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Despite the difficulties of living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), patients nowadays stand a better chance of living a valued life compared to people struggling with the disease two decades ago. According to the findings of a Dutch study, psychological distress and physical disability among RA patients have decreased since 1990, possible explanations being reduced disease activity and a different approach to drug prescription.

The study, which stretched from 1990 to 2011, was conducted by researchers from Utrecht University and involved 1,151 RA patients. Data was collected at the time of diagnosis, as well as after three to five years of treatment. The researchers monitored incidence of depression, anxiety and physical disability over the period, finding that the number of patients experiencing them at diagnosis declined through the years. At the same time, improvement rates during treatment registered an increase. The proportion of patients suffering from depression at follow-up dropped from 25% in 1990 to 14% in 2011. The respective figures for anxiety incidence were 23% and 12%, while the proportion of patients with physical disability fell from 53% to 31%. Even when reduced disease activity was taken into consideration, the decrease in physical disability was still significant, the report noted.

According to the Dutch team, the positive developments in the past two decades could partly be the result of a greater focus on physical activity and other means of improving patient well-being and functioning. Over the years it has also become more common to target RA earlier with more intensive and aggressive pharmacologic treatment, the study report added.