THE physical manifestations we call rheumatoid arthritis are relatively easy to diagnose. Unlike the acute diseases that form the main body of most courses in medicine, however, rheumatoid arthritis is not a finite event, not a brief unpleasant interlude in life. Rather, it influences the content of life, to a greater or lesser degree, from its inception onward. The symptoms and signs represent only part of the picture; there are functional and social deficits to consider. Any program of treatment that attempts simply to modify the physical attributes of the disease is doomed to failure. A person afflicted by rheumatoid arthritis sullenly regards a world full of people not so afflicted; he joins a stigmatized minority whose chances of employment, recreational opportunities, insurability, and even access to most public buildings and places of entertainment are severely restricted.
Most definitions of rheumatoid arthritis emphasize the chronicity, variable course, idiosyncratic response to
Ehrlich GE. Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis. JAMA. 1974;228(1):94–96. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230260064034
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