Despite the fact that both men and women with early rheumatoid arthritis (RA) improve rapidly following treatment, women do not fare as well as men over time. Although drug therapy has proven effective at limiting joint pain in newly diagnosed RA patients, these patients still experience a decline in their functional abilities, said Thomas Skogh, PhD, from the University of Linkoping in Sweden. Although the men in his study had joint disease that was equal to if not worse than that of the women, the men showed ?signs of more pronounced improvement and a more favorable course than the women with regard to functional abilities,? he said.
Dr. Skogh and his colleagues followed 284 patients with RA. They gauged the severity of the disease by a variety of factors, and they gave patients a special questionnaire to determine their functional ability. At the beginning of the study, men and women were equal in terms of functional ability. When the researchers tested the patients 1 and 2 years later, the women had experienced a greater drop in their abilities than the men, according to the results of the study, which was published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases (July 2003).