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MedUni Vienna sets new standards with diagnostic criteria for rheumatoid arthritis

(Vienna, 2 July 2010) Rheumatoid arthritis and its consequences are a socio-economic challenge as well as a medical problem. As well as the pain suffered by the patients, the costs of the disease, in particular from the loss of productivity at work, are more than twice as high as with high blood pressure, for example. Thanks to the new diagnostic criteria developed under the auspices of the Division of Rheumatology at MedUni Vienna, the discomfort of patients can be considerably reduced with early therapy and this will also mean huge savings in the disease costs.

The requirements of the diagnostic criteria from 1987 include signs of bone damage in order to make a corresponding diagnosis and thus enable effective therapy. At this stage of the disease there is already considerable damage, however, and damage limitation by means of therapy is only partially effective. In a cooperation project between the European League Against Rheumatism and the American College of Rheumatology, new diagnostic criteria have now been established which enable early identification and treatment of this disease. The leading figures in this work were Priv. Doz. Dr. Daniel Aletaha and O. Univ. Prof. Dr. Josef Smolen, both from Department of Medicine III at MedUni Vienna.

New diagnostic criteria from Vienna
As part of this international cooperation project a diagnostic system has been created which, with certain key parameters, enables clear diagnosis at a very early stage of rheumatoid arthritis. The decisive parameters include inflammation of the joints, abnormal blood findings and the duration of the ailment. When combined, these parameters now make early diagnosis possible and effective treatment can begin immediately. This can hugely reduce the consequences of the disease and patients can even be relatively free of symptoms. Patients can therefore have a completely different quality of life despite the disease, and because of the low damage and the fact that the patients can remain working, there are much lower consequential costs for the health and social system.
The new criteria have now also been clearly backed up by subsequent studies and are therefore pointing the way for the future diagnosis of "rheumatoid arthritis".

60,000 people affected in Austria
In Austria alone there are currently around 60,000 people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. The main problem here is the chronic progression which affects joints and bones in such a way that the sufferers also become unable to work at a relatively early stage because of the associated pain and destruction of joints, and even expensive rehabilitation measures bring only a certain amount of alleviation and a delay in the progression of the disease.