Background Rheumatic Diseases are of the most important causes of morbidity in our society, with high social and economic repercussion.
Objectives To study the prevalence of rheumatic diseases in general practise and their implications related to chronic use of medication and work absenteeism.
Methods Prospective study with observance of the consecutive patients in a general practitioner appointment during a period of six months.
Results 1219 appointments corresponding to 591 patients were analysed. Rheumatic complaints were the most prevalent motive of appointment (21%) followed by cardiovascular diseases (14,7%) and psychiatric diseases (12,2%). The most frequent rheumatic diseases were soft-tissue rheumatism, including low-back pain and other vertebral pain (48,5%) and osteoarthritis (18,1%). Rheumatic diseases were the third cause of chronic use of medication, after psychiatric diseases and gastric-intestinal diseases. Rheumatic diseases were the first cause of work absenteeism with a total of 42,5% od days lost in work in the active patients group. Among the rheumatic diseases, low-back pain and osteoarthritis were the main causes of work absenteeism, but rheumatoid arthritis was the disease of higher level of individual morbidity.
Conclusion Rheumatic diseases are a very prevalent problem in the primary health care level in Portugal and have an important repercussion in the social and economic field.
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