Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Elderly: A New Problem or an Old One?

The concept of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a chronic progressive inflammatory disease of the synovial joints, as a disorder of middle age is changing to include patients outside the range of 40 to 60 years. In particular, the prevalence of RA is reported as 2% of the population older than 60 years and may actually be much higher.<sup>1</sup>

The increase in RA among the elderly can be attributed to two main factors: 1) patients diagnosed with young-onset RA (YORA) are living longer due to better management; and 2) increasing numbers of patients are being diagnosed with elderly-onset RA (EORA). In a 2017 retrospective study from Japan,<sup>2</sup>investigators reported that the mean age of onset had rapidly increased over the previous decade from 55.8 years in 2002-2003 to 59.9 years in 2012-2013, with a corresponding shift in peak age from 50-59 to 60-69 years during that same period of time.