, Volume 22, Issue 10, pp 809-822
Date: 11 Sep 2012

Management Issues with Elderly-Onset Rheumatoid Arthritis

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Elderly-onset rheumatoid arthritis (EORA) is defined as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) starting at >60 years of age. EORA is characterised by a lower female/male ratio compared with RA in younger patients and it more frequently has an acute onset accompanied by constitutional symptoms. Two incompletely overlapping subsets of RA have been recognised: one exhibits the classical RA clinical picture while the other has a polymyalgia rheumatica-like appearance, characterised by shoulder involvement, absence of rheumatoid factor and, usually, by a nonerosive course. Identification of anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies is useful for distinguishing the latter subset from true polymyalgia rheumatica. Elderly-onset spondyloarthritis, crystal-related arthritis, remitting seronegative symmetrical synovitis with pitting oedema syndrome and hepatitis C virus-related arthritis must also be considered in the differential diagnosis. EORA treatment requires prudence because of the increase in age-related risks pertaining principally to the renal, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems. No groups of molecules usually employed for RA therapy in younger subjects (analgesics, NSAIDs, corticosteroids, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, anticytokine drugs) can be excluded a priori from the treatment of EORA patients. Nevertheless, the risk/benefit ratio relating to their use must be accurately evaluated for every single patient. Recently marketed compounds such as leflunomide and tumour necrosis factor-α antagonists have also increased the therapeutic opportunities for aged RA patients.