CLINICAL QUESTION: Which adults with undifferentiated arthritis have a high risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA)?
EVIDENCE SUMMARY: Early use of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) markedly reduces inflammation and joint destruction associated with RA. 1,2. Therefore, with early diagnosis of RA and appropriate use of DMARDs, there is a window of opportunity to change the clinical course of this disabling disease.
However, diagnosing RA in the early stages of the disease is difficult. Many patients who are diagnosed with RA presented earlier with undifferentiated arthritis to a primary care physician. Undifferentiated arthritis is diagnosed when signs, symptoms, and laboratory test results do not meet the American College of Rheumatology's (formerly the American Rheumatism Association) classification for a definitive diagnosis of RA (Table 133).
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