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Redefining arthritis so fewer are disabled

ATLANTA, Aug. 17 (UPI) -- New criteria for rheumatoid arthritis will help prevent the disease from crippling patients, U.S. and European doctors say.

The doctors, members of the American College of Rheumatology and the European League Against Rheumatism, describe rheumatoid arthritis as a progressive autoimmune inflammatory disease -- primarily of the joints -- which left untreated can lead to bone and cartilage damage, joint deformities and disability.

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They have collaborated on new criteria focused on early indicators of the disease to promote early diagnosis and allow treatment with anti-rheumatic drugs to help prevent the destructive damage marking the late stages of the disease as well as channel into clinical trials patients who could benefit from promising new therapies for the disease.

They say the 2010 Rheumatoid arthritis classification criteria, published in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases, replace existing criteria published in 1987 that focused on established, rather than early indicators of disease.

"The new criteria redefine rheumatoid arthritis, reflecting our collective hope that in the future, rheumatoid arthritis will no longer be characterized by erosive joint disease and persistence of symptoms, although these characteristics will continue to define established or longstanding untreated disease," the authors say in a statement.

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