The pattern of rheumatic disease in Africa differs from that in Europe and the United States and these differences may provide clues to its cause or pathogenesis. In a six month prospective analysis of 141 patients (83 female) attending a rheumatic diseases clinic rheumatoid arthritis was the commonest disorder, occurring in 49 patients. Twenty seven of the 49 (55%) were seropositive, 25 (51%) had erosive disease with rheumatoid nodules (13/49, 27%), and extra-articular complications (6/49, 12%), indicating a pattern of disease unlike the early reports from Africa. Systemic lupus erythematosus found in 18/141 (13%), gout in 12 (9%), ankylosing spondylitis in six (4%), and Reiter's syndrome in five (4%), in contrast with their rarity in previous reports from Africa, were not uncommon, whereas tropical polyarthritis was seldom diagnosed. The pattern of rheumatic disease in Harare, a large city, is changing to approximate more closely the pattern seen in developed countries.
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