Symptoms associated with inflammatory arthritis are common in the primary care population: Results from the joint symptoms survey

Samantha L. Hider, Sara Muller, Toby Helliwell, James A. Prior, Ian Scott, Sarah Lawton, Irena Zwierska, Dirkjan Van Schaardenburg, Annette Van Der Helm-Van Mil, Karim Raza, Christian D. Mallen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: To describe the prevalence of self-reported inflammatory joint symptoms, such as joint pain, stiffness and swelling, in UK primary care patients consulting for both musculoskeletal (MSK) and non-musculoskeletal (non-MSK) complaints. Methods: A joint symptoms questionnaire survey was sent to 10 161 individuals, of whom 5050 had consulted for MSK problems. These were matched by age, gender and general practice to non-MSK consulters. Participants provided data on relevant symptoms such as joint pain, stiffness and swelling. The prevalence of these symptoms, their severity and impact were compared between MSK and non-MSK consulters. Results: A total of 4549 adults responded to the survey (adjusted response 45.8%) of whom 52.3% consulted for a MSK problem. The mean (s.d.) age was 61.6 (14.8) years and 58.9% were female. Persistent (on at least half of the days in the last month) inflammatory symptoms were common even in non-MSK consulters, with 42% reporting joint pain, 36% reporting joint stiffness and 18% reporting joint swelling. This is in comparison with 62% reporting joint pain, 50% stiffness and 24% swelling among MSK consulters. Conclusions: Although symptoms such as persistent joint pain, swelling and stiffness are predictive of inflammatory arthritis, large numbers of people consulting primary care for non-MSK reasons report these symptoms when asked by questionnaire. This compounds the challenges of diagnosing inflammatory arthritis in a non-specialist setting where new approaches are needed to ensure accurate, early diagnosis, facilitating a treat-to-target approach.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2009-2014
Number of pages6
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • inflammatory arthritis
  • joint pain
  • joint swelling
  • primary care


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