The pattern of chronic inflammatory rheumatic diseases seen in 52 black Zimbabweans was determined. These diseases constituted 2% of all treatable chronic endemic medical diseases registered around Gweru City. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and gout were the commonest, 38.8% and 28.8% of the total respectively. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), polymyositis, progressive systemic sclerosis, mixed connective tissue disease, ankylosing spondylitis, and Reiter's diseases were seen less frequently. While the rarity of ankylosing spondylitis was not surprising, that of SLE was striking. RA seen in Zimbabwe was as severe as in East Africa, with a mean age of onset of 43.6 (SD 9.6) years, mean ESR 67 (SD 33) mm/h, seropositivity 78%, subcutaneous nodules 10%, and overall deformities in 35% of all cases. Gout was as seen elsewhere, with a mean age of onset 41.5 (SD 7.95) years, M:F ratio 6.5:1, mean male serum uric acid 10.8 (SD 2.69) mg/dl (0.64 +/- 0.16 mmol/l). Alcohol as a precipitating and aggravating factor was supported by a high mean drunkenness score of 10.3 (SD 3.89) out of a maximum of 17. Unawareness and underdiagnosis of these diseases are still likely problems in this part of the world.
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