Objective: To describe the functional capacity for daily activities in old people with clinical rheumatoid arthritis (including juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA)) in a population based cohort.
Methods: A cohort of 700 people was randomly collected from the population older than 75 years in a Finnish town. Altogether 601 persons (86%) participated. Data were collected from clinical records and by interview, clinical examination, and questionnaire. Ability to carry out activities of daily living (ADL) was assessed by the Barthel index, and the IADL (instrumental activities of daily living) by the Lawton and Brody questionnaire.
Results: 16 people had clinical rheumatoid arthritis (one with JRA). The prevalence was 16/601 (2.7% (95% confidence interval, 1.7% to 4.5%)). Eight patients with rheumatoid arthritis (50%) obtained the best possible ADL figures, while three (19%) had very poor results. Seven (44%) could not dress themselves without help. Three (19%) were unable to walk, and five (31%) could not climb stairs. Sex and age adjusted results showed no statistical difference (ADL and IADL) between patients with clinical rheumatoid arthritis and rest of the cohort. Four patients (25%) had dementia, which was associated with the poor functional capacity.
Conclusions: The prevalence of the disease was unexceptional. The ability of old people with rheumatoid arthritis to carry out activities of daily living did not differ from the general population, but the disease may lead to severe disability on an individual level, especially when associated with dementia. It therefore remains a considerable challenge to the health care and social systems.