Rheumatoid arthritis and gout can cause similar symptoms, but have shown opposite trends when it comes to hospitalizations over the last 20 years. A research paper published in a U.S. medical journal found that as hospitalizations for rheumatoid arthritis fell, hospital admissions caused by gout rose, raising questions as to why.
Rheumatoid arthritis and gout are the two most common arthritides, or types of inflammatory arthritis, in North America. Researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston, and Arthritis Research Canada in Vancouver, British Columbia, studied a database that is representative of hospitalizations throughout the United States. The research letter, titled "Trends in Gout and Rheumatoid Arthritis Hospitalizations in the United States, 1993-2011" was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association this past week.
What they found was that during the study period of 1993 to 2011, hospitalizations due to rheumatoid arthritis decreased significantly from 13.9 to 4.6 per 100,000 adults. During the same period, rates of hospitalization due to gout doubled, rising from 4.4 to 8.8 per 100,000 adults. In terms of absolute numbers, in 1993 more patients were admitted to hospitals due to rheumatoid arthritis; by 2011 that trend had reversed as well.
While the study can look at the numbers, researchers could not pinpoint a specific cause from the hospitalization data alone. However, the research letter does propose a theory.
"The findings may reflect suboptimal care received by gout patients and its increasing prevalence."