Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory disease typically affecting the joints, but the systemic inflammatory process may involve other tissues and organs. Many extra-articular manifestations are recognized, which are related to worse long outcomes. Rheumatoid nodules are the most common extra-articular feature, found in about 30% of patients. Secondary Sjögren's syndrome and pulmonary manifestations are observed in almost 10% of patients, also in the early disease. Active RA with high disease activity has been associated with an increased risk of such features. Male gender, smoking habit, severe joint disease, worse function, high pro-inflammatory markers levels, high titer of rheumatoid factor, and HLA-related shared epitope have been reported as clinical predictors of occurrence of these rheumatoid complications. In addition, there is a little evidence deriving from randomized controlled trials in this field, thus the therapeutic strategy is mainly empiric and based on small case series and retrospective studies. However, considering that these extra-articular manifestations are usually related to the more active and severe RA, an aggressive therapeutic strategy is usually employed in view of the poor outcomes of these patients. The extra-articular features of RA remain, despite the improvement of joint damage, a major diagnostic and therapeutic challenge, since these are associated with a poor prognosis and need to be early recognized and promptly managed.
- Extra-articular manifestations
- Precision medicine
- Rheumatoid arthritis