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Common language description of the term rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs) for use in communication with the lay public, healthcare providers and other stakeholders endorsed by the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) and the American College of Rheumatology (ACR)
  1. Désirée van der Heijde1,
  2. David I Daikh2,
  3. Neil Betteridge3,
  4. Gerd R Burmester4,
  5. Afton L Hassett5,
  6. Eric L Matteson6,
  7. Ronald van Vollenhoven7,
  8. Sharad Lakhanpal8
  1. 1 Department of Rheumatology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands
  2. 2 Division of Rheumatology, University of California San Francisco and San Francisco VA Medical Center, San Francisco, California, USA
  3. 3 Neil Betteridge Associates, London, UK
  4. 4 Department of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology, Charité-University Medicine Berlin, Free University and Humboldt University Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  5. 5 Department of Anesthesiology, Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
  6. 6 Division of Rheumatology, Department of Health Sciences Research, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, Minnesota, USA
  7. 7 Amsterdam Rheumatology and Immunology Center (ARC), Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  8. 8 Rheumatology Associates, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, USA
  1. Correspondence to Professor Désirée van der Heijde, Department of Rheumatology, Leiden University Medical Center, 2300 RC, Leiden, The Netherlands; mail{at}


A European League Against Rheumatism-American College of Rheumatology working group consisting of practising and academic rheumatologists, a rheumatology researcher and a patient representative created a succinct general statement describing rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs) in adults and children in language that can be used in conversations with the lay public, media, healthcare providers and other stakeholders. Based on the literature review, several elements were deemed important for inclusion in the description of RMDs. First, RMDs encompass many different diseases that can affect individuals at any age, including children. Second, there are various pathophysiological pathways underlying different RMDs. Third, the impact of RMDs on individuals and society should be emphasised. The working group agreed that the language should be comprehensible to the lay public. Thus, the following description of RMDs has been developed: ‘Rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs) are a diverse group of diseases that commonly affect the joints, but can affect any organ of the body. There are more than 200 different RMDs, affecting both children and adults. They are usually caused by problems of the immune system, inflammation, infections or gradual deterioration of joints, muscles and bones. Many of these diseases are long term and worsen over time. They are typically painful and limit function. In severe cases, RMDs can result in significant disability, having a major impact on both quality of life and life expectancy.’ This description can be used by rheumatology groups, researchers and those who work in advocacy and education related to RMDs.

  • health services research
  • qualitative research
  • epidemiology

Statistics from


  • Handling editor Josef S Smolen

  • Contributors All authors participated in drafting the manuscript, and approved the final version before submission.

  • Funding This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Presented at This article is published simultaneously in the June 2018 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatology.

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