Thirty-nine black African patients were seen with probable, definite or classical rheumatoid arthritis (RA); 32 of these were seen in a prospective study out of a total of 15 834 new patients 15 years and older at presentation seen in a 12-month period. The diagnosis was based on the American Rheumatism Association criteria for RA or the Rome criteria for inactive RA. The high incidence of severe disease as well as the occurrence of advanced disease in young patients is notable. 80% of the patients came from rural areas. Radiological lesions were found in 74% and serological abnormalities in 92%. Rheumatoid factor (RF) was found to be positive in 12% of an age and sex matched control group and in 19% of a group of patients suffering from tuberculosis.
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