Background Halkidiki is a region/prefecture of 106.000 inhabitants mostly suburban and rural which attracts approximately 1 million visitors during summer months of June, July, August and September. There is a district hospital, 5 health centres an Orthopaedic unit based at the hospital and 3 Orthopaedic doctors practising privately in addition to the single Rheumatologist practising in the area.
Objectives In order to assess incidence and prevalence of rheumatic conditions in rural and suburban East Meditterannean basin of Southern Europe, medical notes were analysed from a total number of 226 patients who presented themselves to a single Rheumatologist practising in the prefecture of Halkidiki within 3 years from September 1997 to September 2000.
Methods Medical cases were excluded as well as patients visiting the region temporarily. Rheumatology in the region is practised in the community and patients were either self referred or other specialist’s referrals. From the 226 patients there were 56 males and 170 females (m:f = 1:3). Their median age was 56.3 (range 11–84).
Results Seventy seven patients out of 226 (34%) had autoimmune conditions. From these 30 patients had RA of whom 18 patients were newly diagnosed. Forty four patients (19.4%) had OA, 17 patients (7.5%) had spine complains (sciatica, cervical spondylosis, scoliosis) 22 patients (9.7%) upper limp [frozen shoulder (n = 9), carpal tunnel (n = 8), flexor tendon nodule (n = 3), epicondylitis (n = 2)] and 5 patients (2.2%) had lower limp complaints (calcaneal spur, trochanderic bursitis). Twenty two patients (9.7%) had seronegative arthritis (Ankylosing Spondylitis n = 5, Psoriatic Arthritis n = 13, Reactive Arthritis n = 3, Ulcerative colitis n = 2). Twenty four patients (10.6%) had thyroid related disorders, 14 patients (6.1%) osteoporosis, 12 patients (5.3%) had gout and 5 patients (2.2%) had liver disease related arthralgia. Two cases were undiagnosed.
Conclusion Most cases presented to a Rheumatologist in Southern Europe are of degenerative origin or soft tissue rheumatism complaints. Many specialities look after these patients particularly orthopaedics. Rheumatoid Arthritis revealed an incidence of 6/100.000 per year. Psoriatic Arthritis showed an incidence of 3.5/100.000 per year. Polymyalgia Rheumatica/Temporal arteritis showed incidence of 4/100.000 per year being second common autoimmune disease after RA. Finally thyroid related (autoimmune or functional) arthralgia is found quite common in the region being third among muskuloskeletal disorders after OA and RA.