ARTHRITIS & RHEUMATISM
Vol. 58, No. 1, January 2008, pp 15–25
© 2008, American College of Rheumatology
Estimates of the Prevalence of Arthritis and
Other Rheumatic Conditions in the United States
Charles G. Helmick,1David T. Felson,2Reva C. Lawrence,3Sherine Gabriel,4
Rosemarie Hirsch,5C. Kent Kwoh,6Matthew H. Liang,7Hilal Maradit Kremers,4
Maureen D. Mayes,8Peter A. Merkel,2Stanley R. Pillemer,9John D. Reveille,8and
John H. Stone,10for the National Arthritis Data Workgroup
Objective. To provide a single source for the best
available estimates of the US prevalence of and number
of individuals affected by arthritis overall, rheumatoid
arthritis, juvenile arthritis, the spondylarthritides, sys-
temic lupus erythematosus, systemic sclerosis, and Sjo ¨-
gren’s syndrome. A companion article (part II) ad-
dresses additional conditions.
Methods. The National Arthritis Data Workgroup
reviewed published analyses from available national
surveys, such as the National Health and Nutrition
Examination Survey and the National Health Interview
Survey (NHIS). For analysis of overall arthritis, we used
the NHIS. Because data based on national population
samples are unavailable for most specific rheumatic
conditions, we derived estimates from published studies
of smaller, defined populations. For specific conditions,
the best available prevalence estimates were applied to
the corresponding 2005 US population estimates from
the Census Bureau, to estimate the number affected
with each condition.
Results. More than 21% of US adults (46.4 million
persons) were found to have self-reported doctor-
diagnosed arthritis. We estimated that rheumatoid ar-
thritis affects 1.3 million adults (down from the estimate
of 2.1 million for 1995), juvenile arthritis affects 294,000
children, spondylarthritides affect from 0.6 million to
2.4 million adults, systemic lupus erythematosus affects
from 161,000 to 322,000 adults, systemic sclerosis af-
fects 49,000 adults, and primary Sjo ¨gren’s syndrome
affects from 0.4 million to 3.1 million adults.
Conclusion. Arthritis and other rheumatic condi-
tions continue to be a large and growing public health
problem. Estimates for many specific rheumatic condi-
tions rely on a few, small studies of uncertain general-
izability to the US population. This report provides the
best available prevalence estimates for the US, but for
most specific conditions, more studies generalizable to
the US or addressing understudied populations are
In adults, arthritis is the leading cause of disabil-
ity (1) and is among the leading conditions causing work
The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the
authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, or
the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The National Arthritis Data Workgroup is a consortium of
experts in epidemiology organized to provide a single source of
national data on the prevalence and impact of rheumatic diseases. It is
supported by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal
and Skin Diseases, NIH; the National Center for Chronic Disease
Prevention and Health Promotion and National Center for Health
Statistics, CDC; the American College of Rheumatology; and the
1Charles G. Helmick, MD: CDC, Atlanta, Georgia;2David T.
Felson, MD, MPH, Peter A. Merkel, MD, MPH: Boston University
School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts;
MPH: NIH, Bethesda, Maryland;4Sherine Gabriel, MD, MSc, Hilal
Maradit Kremers, MD, MSc: Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota;
5Rosemarie Hirsch, MD, MPH: CDC, Hyattsville, Maryland;6C. Kent
Kwoh, MD: University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Pitts-
burgh VA Healthcare System, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania;7Matthew H.
Liang, MD, MPH: Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massa-
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston;9Stanley R.
Pillemer, MD: Macrogenics, Rockville, Maryland;10John H. Stone,
MD, MPH: Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.
Address correspondence and reprint requests to Charles G.
Helmick, MD, Arthritis Program, CDC, 4770 Buford Highway, K51,
Atlanta, GA 30341-3717. E-mail: CHelmick@cdc.gov.
Submitted for publication June 7, 2007; accepted in revised
form September 14, 2007.
3Reva C. Lawrence,
8Maureen D. Mayes, MD, MPH, John D. Reveille, MD:
limitations (2). Over the next 25 years the number of
people affected and the social impact of doctor-
diagnosed arthritis are projected to increase by 40% in
the US (3). Estimating the burden in the US population
of the various rheumatic conditions that comprise arthri-
tis is important for understanding their current and
potential future impact on the health care and public
health systems. Equally important is identifying the gaps
in our understanding of burden.
This and a companion article (4) update the
National Arthritis Data Workgroup (NADW) reports of
arthritis prevalence, our measure of burden, from 1989
and 1998 (5,6). Sjo ¨gren’s syndrome and carpal tunnel
syndrome have been included for the first time, and
additionally, the common symptoms of neck and back
pain are addressed.
The term “prevalence” has been defined and used in
conflicting ways. In these 2 articles, we use prevalence to mean
“prevalence proportion” (incorrectly called “prevalence rate”
at times), meaning the proportion of persons in the population
with the condition. We use the phrase “number affected” to
refer to the absolute number of people affected in the popu-
US estimates of disease prevalence were usually based
on data from published national or local population-based
studies from the US and, if no accurate US data were available,
from international studies. For overall arthritis, the number
affected was based on the population sampled in the 2003–
2005 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). For other
conditions, the best available prevalence estimates were ap-
plied to the corresponding July 1, 2005 population estimates
from the Census Bureau (http://www.census.gov/popest/
national/asrh/NC-EST2005-sa.html) to estimate the number
affected. Some of the US population-based studies were
special studies in small areas that may not reflect the racial and
ethnic profile of the US or of those affected by the illness.
Caveats accompany the estimates presented, when there are
concerns about generalizability.
Several estimates came from 2 National Center for
Health Statistics surveys: the NHIS and the National Health
and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Both use
probability samples of the US civilian, noninstitutionalized
population to generate national health estimates. The
NHANES uses interviews and examinations (e.g., physical
examinations, laboratory tests, and radiographs) from ?5,000
respondents annually. The much larger NHIS uses an annual
cross-sectional, in-person interview survey of ?106,000 respon-
dents in 43,000 households to collect self-reported health
status information. Estimates for overall arthritis obtained
using the NHIS were age adjusted to the projected 2000
population age ?18 years by 3 age groups (18–44 years, 45–64
years, and ?65 years) to allow better comparison of demo-
graphic groups (available at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/
statnt/statnt20.pdf [used .530458, .299194, and .170271 from
distribution 9, for ages 18–44, 45–64, and ?65, respectively]).
Measuring the prevalence of arthritis poses many
challenges. From study to study, the distinction between point
prevalence and cumulative (i.e., lifetime) prevalence is not
always clear. Prevalence is difficult to determine for conditions
that are episodic. Some conditions have no standard case
definition, whereas others have competing or evolving case
definitions based on different symptoms, signs, radiographic
findings, or laboratory data. Estimates vary depending on the
inclusion or exclusion of asymptomatic, mild, or early disease
and the aggressiveness of case finding. Symptomatic individu-
als in the community who do not seek treatment may go
uncounted. Furthermore, individuals frequently do not know
what specific rheumatic disease they have, so self-reported
data cannot be used for estimates of specific conditions.
Overall arthritis. The case definition used to
identify persons with arthritis has changed since our last
report (6). In 1997 the NHIS stopped using condition
lists and International Classification of Diseases, Ninth
Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) codes, the
basis of our previous method, and instead adopted new
surveillance questions. Based on cognitive and valida-
tion studies (7,8), “self-reported doctor-diagnosed ar-
thritis” is thought to provide the most credible estimate
of overall arthritis prevalence, with acceptable sensitivity
and specificity for surveillance purposes. Respondents
were defined as having doctor-diagnosed arthritis if they
answered “yes” to the question, “Have you EVER been
told by a doctor or other health professional that you
have some form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout,
lupus, or fibromyalgia?” Among those with doctor-
diagnosed arthritis, activity limitation attributable to
arthritis was defined by a “yes” answer to the question,
“Are you now limited in any way in any of your usual
activities because of arthritis or joint symptoms?”
diagnosed arthritis among adults age ?18 years, esti-
mated using the annual average from the 2003–2005
NHIS surveys, was 21.6%, or 46.4 million (9) (Table 1).
Although arthritis prevalence was higher in older age
groups, with half of adults age ?65 years being affected,
nearly two-thirds of the adults reporting doctor-
diagnosed arthritis were younger than 65 (Table 1).
More than 60% were women. Age-adjusted arthritis
prevalence was higher for women than for men (24%
versus 18%) but was similar for non-Hispanic whites and
African Americans (?22%), whose rates were higher
than those for Hispanics (16.5%). The number of per-
sons with doctor-diagnosed arthritis is projected to
16 HELMICK ET AL
increase to nearly 67 million by 2030 (3)—an increase of
Using the same report as was used to determine
prevalence (9), we found that an estimated 8.8% of all
US adults, or nearly 19 million persons, had arthritis-
attributable activity limitations (Table 1). The preva-
lence of activity limitations was higher in older age
groups (affecting ?22% of all adults age ?65 years),
higher among women, and lower among Hispanics.
Arthritis or joint symptoms led to activity limitation in
?40% of adults with doctor-diagnosed arthritis. This
outcome is projected to increase to 25 million (9.3% of
the adult population) by 2030 (3).
The high population prevalence of arthritis and
of arthritis-related activity limitations translates into an
immense personal and societal burden, often differing
by race/ethnicity (10). This situation results in “arthritis
and rheumatism” being the leading cause of physical
disability in the US (1) and causes affected persons to
have a substantially worse health-related quality of life
(11). Among various other impact/burden measures,
arthritis and other rheumatic conditions in 1997 were
the underlying cause of death in 9,367 persons in the US
(12), were present in 300,000 nursing home residents
(19%) (13), and resulted in 744,000 hospitalizations (14)
and 36.5 million ambulatory care visits (15). Costs of
arthritis and other rheumatic conditions in 2003 were
$128 billion (16).
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA is a multisystem
disorder of unknown etiology, characterized by chronic
destructive synovitis. Our previous national prevalence
estimates for RA (6) were derived from the NHANES I,
which used a case definition based on the clinical
diagnosis by the examining physician. Since that time,
classification criteria for RA have been revised (17–19).
Several studies have provided estimates of the
prevalence of RA in defined populations. Although
these studies had a number of methodologic limitations
(20), the remarkable finding was the uniformity of
prevalence estimates in populations from different de-
arthritis-attributable activity limitations among adults age ?18 years, by sex, age, and race/ethnicity, National Health Interview Survey, United
Unadjusted and age-adjusted estimates of the prevalence of and number affected by self-reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis and
(46.4 million affected)
limitation (18.9 million affected)
Proportion with arthritis-
attributable activity limitation
among those with doctor-
% ? 95% CI
% ? 95% CI†
% ? 95% CI
% ? 95% CI†
% ? 95% CI
% ? 95% CI†
Men 103,36217.6 ? 0.5
25.4 ? 0.6
18.1 ? 0.56.8 ? 0.3
10.7 ? 0.3
7.0 ? 0.338.8 ? 1.4 36.6 ? 1.8
Women 111,41124.4 ? 0.5 10.3 ? 0.342.3 ? 0.9 39.0 ? 1.2
18–44 110,318 7.9 ? 0.3
29.3 ? 0.7
50.0 ? 0.9
– 2.7 ? 0.2
11.8 ? 0.4
22.4 ? 0.7
– 34.6 ? 1.9–
45–64 70,019–– 40.3 ? 1.2–
?65†34,435––44.9 ? 1.3–
White, non-Hispanic 153,148 24.3 ? 0.5
19.2 ? 0.9
11.4 ? 0.6
14.7 ? 1.3
21.6 ? 0.4
22.6 ? 0.49.6 ? 0.3
9.2 ? 0.6
5.4 ? 0.4
6.0 ? 0.8
8.8 ? 0.2
8.9 ? 0.3 39.5 ? 0.936.4 ? 1.2
Black, non-Hispanic23,775 21.4 ? 0.910.3 ? 0.747.8 ? 2.444.3 ? 3.2
Hispanic 26,904 16.5 ? 0.88.2 ? 0.6 47.6 ? 2.6 45.2 ? 3.2
Other non-Hispanic 10,94617.3 ? 1.37.2 ? 1.041.1 ? 4.8 40.5 ? 5.4
Total214,772 21.5 ? 0.48.8 ? 0.2 40.9 ? 0.8 38.1 ? 1.0
* See ref. 9.
† Adjusted to the projected 2000 population age ?18 years by 3 age groups: 18–44 years, 45–64 years, and ?65 years (see ref. 88). 95% CI ? 95%
PREVALENCE OF RHEUMATIC DISEASES IN THE US, PART I17
veloped countries: ?0.5%–1% of the adult population.
However, studies from the Pima Indian population
showed significantly higher incidence and prevalence
A study from Rochester, Minnesota showed a
prevalence of RA in 1985 of 1.07% (95% confidence
interval [95% CI] 0.94–1.20) among adults ?35 years of
age (22); this fell to 0.85% in 1995 (95% CI 0.75–0.95)
(Gabriel S, et al: unpublished data). The prevalence
among women in 1995 was approximately double that in
men (1.06% versus 0.61%) (Gabriel S, et al: unpublished
Trends in RA prevalence in Rochester, Minne-
sota by age and calendar year show increasing preva-
lence with older age and decreasing prevalence for most
age groups in more recent time periods (Figure 1).
These trends, by calendar year, age, and sex, have also
been demonstrated in numerous other populations (21–
26). In particular, the temporal decline in RA preva-
lence is consistent with studies showing a progressive
decline in RA incidence since the early 1960s (21,27–30).
Also, the average age of persons with prevalent RA has
increased steadily over time, from 63.3 years in 1965 to
66.8 years in 1995, suggesting that RA is becoming a
disease of older adults. This observation, along with the
expected rapid growth in the proportion of Americans
age ?60 years, suggests that RA-associated morbidity,
mortality, and disability are likely to increase among
Using the 1995 Rochester, Minnesota age/sex-
specific prevalence and the corresponding 2005 popula-
tion estimates from the Census Bureau, we estimated
that 1,293,000 American adults age ?18 years (0.6%)
have RA. This is lower than the previous estimate of
2,100,000 (6) because of the decline in RA prevalence.
These Rochester estimates are likely to be generalizable
to the white US population, but their generalizability to
other racial/ethnic populations is uncertain.
Juvenile arthritis. The prevalence of chronic,
inflammatory arthritis in children is difficult to estimate
because of differences in nomenclature (e.g., “juvenile
rheumatoid arthritis” [JRA], “juvenile chronic arthritis”
[JCA], and most recently “juvenile idiopathic arthritis”
[JIA]) and classification criteria (1977 American College
of Rheumatology [ACR; formerly, the American Rheu-
matism Association] , 1978 European League
Against Rheumatism , and 1997 International
League of Associations for Rheumatology  with a
revision published in 2004 ), and the heterogeneity
of the diseases and their subtypes encompassed under
this rubric (35). In addition, variability in disease course
among the subtypes of JIA may make it difficult to
compare prevalence estimates for this condition across
different study settings. In some types of the disease
extended remissions occur, so that prevalence estimates
include individuals who were ever affected, but are not
Prevalence reported in a comprehensive review
ranged from 7 to 401 per 100,000 children across a broad
diversity of geographic regions (35). Data from Roches-
ter, Minnesota suggested declining prevalence, from
9.43 per 100,000 children in 1980 to 8.61 per 100,000
children in 1990 (36). These prevalences were lower
than previous estimates from the same population,
owing, in part, to differences in assignment of case
The combined incidence of JRA and juvenile
spondylarthritis (“spondylarthritis” being a more con-
temporary term for what is synonymously referred to in
many earlier publications as “spondylarthropathy” [see
below]) from other recent US and Canadian studies
consistently ranges from 4.1 to 6.1 per 100,000, with the
incidence of juvenile spondylarthritis ranging from 1.1 to
2 per 100,000 (37–39). These studies have encompassed
Figure 1. Prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis (adjusted to the 2000
white US population) among female residents (A) and male residents
(B) of Rochester, Minnesota at 4 time points (1965, 1975, 1985, and
1995 [January 1 of each year]), by age group.
18 HELMICK ET AL
a number of diverse regions including New England;
Manitoba, Canada; and 13 other centers across Canada.
The prevalence of JCA from 2 Canadian studies was 3.2
and 4.0 per 100,000 children (40).
The prevalence of JRA in the US in different
published reports ranged from 1.6 to 86.1 per 100,000.
Data from the NHIS suggested a prevalence of 150 per
100,000 for all types of childhood arthritis, including
JRA, juvenile spondylarthritis, Lyme disease, arthritis
associated with the less common pediatric connective
tissue diseases, and other types of childhood arthritis.
The prevalence of JCA (the name for JRA outside the
US) found in a population-based study in Australia, in
which respondents were surveyed door to door (41), was
far higher (400 per 100,000) than has been found in
In summary, there are very wide variations in the
reported prevalences of chronic inflammatory arthriti-
des of childhood, such as JRA and juvenile spondylar-
thritis. The lack of comparable prevalence estimates
across different regions in the US makes it difficult to
estimate the total number affected. Perhaps the best
prevalence estimates come via a novel approach using
data from pediatric ambulatory care visits recorded in
the 2001–2004 National Ambulatory and Medical Care
Survey and the NADW ICD-9-CM case definition for
adults (6) modified to reflect pediatric conditions, by
which it was estimated that 294,000 children ages 0–17
years (95% CI 188,000–400,000) were affected by the
broadly defined “arthritis or other rheumatic condi-
Spondylarthritides. The spondylarthritides (more
contemporary term for what is synonymously referred to
in many earlier publications as “spondylarthropathies”)
are a family of diseases that includes ankylosing spon-
dylitis (AS), reactive arthritis (formerly known as
Reiter’s syndrome), psoriatic arthritis, enteropathic ar-
thritis (associated with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s
disease), juvenile spondylarthritis, and undifferentiated
spondylarthritis, which encompasses disorders express-
ing elements of but failing to fulfill criteria for the
above diseases. The prevalence of AS and other spondyl-
arthritides parallels the frequency of the genotype
Ankylosing spondylitis. Among studies of white
Europeans and East Asians, the reported prevalence of
AS has varied between 30 per 100,000 and 900 per
100,000 (reflecting differences in HLA–B27 frequency
and in patient referral and disease ascertainment) (43–
45). In the US, a 1979 study from Rochester, Minnesota
showed a prevalence of 129 per 100,000 in a Caucasian
population (46). Prevalence data suggest that AS occurs
less frequently in African Americans than in whites (47).
The overall prevalence of severe or moderate
radiographic sacroiliitis on pelvic radiographs in men
ages 25–74 years in the NHANES I was 730 per 100,000;
among women ages 50–74 years, the prevalence was 300
per 100,000 (48) (Table 2). Of those with moderate to
severe radiographic sacroiliitis, only 7.6% were currently
experiencing “significant pain in their lower backs on
most days for at least one month.” Since questions
Prevalence of spondylarthritides, overall and by subtype
Disease subtypeGroup Ref.
Prevalence per 100,000*
Ankylosing spondylitis Nationally representative (age ?25 years men, ?50 years women)
Whites (age ?15 years) men and women
Eskimos (age ?20 years)
Whites (age ?20 years)
400 53, 61
* NA ? not applicable.
† The undifferentiated spondylarthritis estimate was derived by multiplying the frequency of the other spondylarthritides by 40% (assuming the
maximum estimate for enteropathic arthritis) ([520 ? 101 ? 65 ? 250] ? 0.4 ? 374).
‡ The low range of overall spondylarthritides was derived by adding the total prevalence estimates for ankylosing spondylitis among whites, psoriatic
arthritis, peripheral enteropathic arthritis, and the low estimate for axial enteropathic arthritis (130 ? 101 ? 65 ? 50 ? 346); undifferentiated
spondylarthritis was excluded. The high range was derived by adding the total prevalence estimates for nationally representative ankylosing
spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, peripheral enteropathic arthritis, the high estimate for axial enteropathic arthritis, and undifferentiated spondylar-
thritis (520 ? 101 ? 65 ? 250 ? 374 ? 1,310).
PREVALENCE OF RHEUMATIC DISEASES IN THE US, PART I19
regarding inflammatory back pain (49) were not asked in
this survey, the prevalence of AS cannot be ascertained.
Reactive arthritis. The prevalence of reactive ar-
thritis appears to be decreasing in developed countries
(50). One study in Rochester, Minnesota investigated
incidence (51), but prevalence in the general US popu-
lation is unknown. Studies of American Indian groups
have shown frequencies of 300 per 100,000 among
Navajos (52) and 200–1,000 per 100,000 among Alaskan
Yupik and Inupiat Eskimos (53), 2 groups with a high
frequency of HLA–B27. Because many persons with
reactive arthritis have remissions, prevalence estimates
include individuals who were ever affected but are not
Psoriatic arthritis. In Olmsted County, Minnesota,
the prevalence of psoriatic arthritis in 1992 was 101 per
100,000 (95% CI 81–121 per 100,000) (54) (Table 2).
There are no published data on its prevalence in African
Americans or Hispanics.
Enteropathic arthritis. The prevalence of inflam-
matory bowel disease (IBD) in the US has been esti-
mated to be 500 per 100,000 (55). However, the preva-
lence of enteropathic arthritis/spondylitis has not been
determined. The self-limited and nondestructive nature
of peripheral enteropathic arthritis complicates calcula-
tions of its prevalence (56), although it has been re-
ported to occur in up to 13% of patients with IBD
(57–59). Although inflammatory back pain occurs in up
to 50% of patients with IBD (58,59), AS occurs in ?10%
(57). Applying these percentages (13% for peripheral
arthritis and 10–50% for spinal arthritis) to the preva-
lence of 0.5% for IBD, the estimated US prevalence of
enteropathic peripheral arthritis is 65 per 100,000 and
that of enteropathic spinal arthritis ranges from 50 to
250 per 100,000 (Table 2).
Undifferentiated spondylarthritis. Limited data
from Europe (60) and Alaska (61) suggest that ?40% of
patients with spondylarthritis have “undifferentiated”
spondylarthritis. Better population-based data are
needed, especially from the mainland US, where the
prevalence of this disorder has not been directly as-
Overall spondylarthritis. The prevalence of spon-
dylarthritis in the US is unknown. In studies of Euro-
pean whites, the reported prevalence has varied widely,
from 470 per 100,000 (60) to 1,900 per 100,000 (44).
Higher prevalences in Eskimos from Siberia and Alaska
have been reported (53). The prevalence of overall
spondylarthritis in the US can be roughly estimated by
summing either low or high prevalence estimates of its
component subtypes, resulting in a range of 346–1,310
per 100,000 among those age ?25 years (Table 2). Using
this range of prevalence and the corresponding 2005
population estimates from the Census Bureau, we esti-
mated that between 639,000 and 2,417,000 adults age
?25 years have spondylarthritis.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). SLE is a
multisystem autoimmune disorder of unknown etiology,
with disease manifestations that vary over time. The
1982 ACR criteria for the classification of SLE (62),
which are the most widely used, rely on signs and
symptoms present at any time during a person’s illness.
Patients with early or atypical disease often have not
accumulated enough manifestations to meet criteria,
and may not be counted.
Studies of SLE prevalence have been performed
in different regions of the country and have used varying
methods of case identification, including screening of
inpatient and outpatient records (63,64) and inferring
prevalence on the basis of cases identified using multiple
outpatient and hospital sources (65). In studies from a
San Francisco, California health maintenance organiza-
tion (HMO) and from Rochester, Minnesota, both
involving predominantly white populations, SLE preva-
lence was estimated to be 44 per 100,000 whites (63) and
40 per 100,000 (mostly whites) (64,66), respectively. In a
study from Nogales, Arizona, prevalence in Hispanic
women was estimated to be 103 per 100,000 (67). A
study from Hawaii showed a prevalence of 50 per
100,000 among whites and persons of Japanese descent,
versus 100 per 100,000 among persons of Chinese de-
scent (68). In all of these studies, prevalence estimates of
SLE among nonwhites were based on a limited number
of cases, resulting in wide confidence intervals and
limiting the precision of results.
The estimated prevalence of SLE from the
NHANES III was 53.6 per 100,000 among adults age
?18 years and 100 per 100,000 among adult women,
based on self-reported physician diagnosis and current
prescription of medications used for SLE treatment
Among both whites and blacks, the prevalence of
SLE is higher in women than in men. Using data from
the San Francisco study (63), the prevalences in whites
and African Americans among those ages 15–64 years
were as follows: 100 per 100,000 white women, 400 per
100,000 black women, 10 per 100,000 white men, and 50
per 100,000 black men.
Findings of one study suggest that the prevalence
of suspected SLE is similar to that of definite SLE (66).
For estimating SLE prevalence, we used a range that
included the number of persons with definite SLE at the
20 HELMICK ET AL
low end and double that number at the high end, to
include patients with suspected disease who do not meet
strict ACR criteria for disease. Our reason was that the
latter patients, like those who do meet the classification
criteria, consume health resources and must cope with
their illness, and many of them meet criteria later in
their disease course (63,64,67–69). Using the San Fran-
cisco sex/race prevalence among persons ages 15–64 and
the corresponding 2005 population estimates from the
Census Bureau, we estimated that as few as 161,000 and
as many as 322,000 persons in the US have SLE (161,000
definite SLE [11,000 white men, 80,000 white women,
7,000 African American men, 56,000 African American
women, and 7,000 people of other races]; 322,000 defi-
nite or suspected SLE), although the generalizability of
the San Francisco HMO data to the US population has
not been determined.
Systemic sclerosis (SSc; scleroderma). There are
2 forms of SSc: a systemic form, which can have limited
or diffuse skin involvement, and a localized form, which
is confined to the skin and surrounding tissue. This
report addresses only the systemic form.
In a population-based study of SSc in southeast
Michigan, prevalence was ascertained from multiple
sources, including hospital discharge data, outpatient
data from 2 academic centers, private-practice rheuma-
tologists, and the local chapter of a scleroderma support
group. Cases were defined as persons age ?18 years who
met the 1980 ACR preliminary criteria for the classifi-
cation of SSc (70). Persons were also considered to be
cases if they had a physician diagnosis and at least 2 of
the 5 features of CREST syndrome (calcinosis,
Raynaud’s phenomenon, esophageal dysmotility, sclero-
dactyly, telangiectasias) (71). Seven hundred six SSc
cases were identified and extrapolated to the US popu-
lation, yielding a prevalence of 24.2 per 100,000 adults
(95% CI 21.3–27.4) (72). Using capture–recapture meth-
ods, an estimated number of missing cases was added,
yielding a revised prevalence estimate of 27.6 cases per
100,000 US adults (95% CI 24.5–31.0). Women were
affected 4.6 times more frequently than men. SSc prev-
alence had a modestly higher prevalence among African
Americans than whites, with an age-adjusted prevalence
ratio of 1.15 (95% CI 1.02–1.30). In addition, African
Americans were significantly younger than whites at the
time of diagnosis (mean ? SD 41.0 ? 14.6 years versus
48.1 ? 15.9 years; P ? 0.001).
The highest reported prevalence of SSc has been
in a Choctaw Indian group in Oklahoma (66 cases per
100,000, based on 14 cases) (73). There may be genetic
factors that contribute to increased disease susceptibility
in this group (74–76).
A 20-year study of hospital-diagnosed sclero-
derma cases in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania from
1963 through 1982 suggested that disease incidence
doubled over this period (77). However, recent data do
not suggest any continued increase in incidence or
Using the southeast Michigan sex/race preva-
lence and the corresponding 2005 population estimates
from the Census Bureau, we estimated that 49,000
Americans age 18 and older have SSc, although the
generalizability of the Michigan data to the US popula-
tion has not been determined.
Primary Sjo ¨gren’s syndrome (SS). SS may occur
alone (primary SS) or with other autoimmune diseases,
including RA or SLE (secondary SS). Prevalence esti-
mates reported herein are confined to primary SS
because there are insufficient data to evaluate the
prevalence of secondary SS.
Primary SS prevalence estimates have ranged
from 0.05% to 4.8% across international communities
(79–86), but only 3 of these studies (79–81) were
population based. More recently reported prevalence
rates have generally tended to be lower than those in
earlier publications, which could reflect increasing rigor
of epidemiologic studies, more restrictive and objective
classification criteria, small sample sizes in earlier stud-
ies, and selection biases. For example, in 1988, a preva-
lence of 4.8% (95% CI 3.1–6.5%) was found in an
elderly and institutionalized population (84), and in
1989 a prevalence of 2.7% (95% CI 1.0–4.3%) was
found in Swedish adults (85). Subsequent studies pro-
vided lower SS prevalence estimates in Greek women
(0.6% [95% CI 0.19–1.39%]) (81), in residents of Olm-
sted County, Minnesota (0.32% cumulative incidence
[which approximates prevalence]) (80), and in China
(0.77% [95% CI 0.62–0.92%]) (79). The prevalence of
SS among women from 2 primary care practices in the
UK ranged from ?0.1% to 0.4% (86).
Because no prevalence studies have been per-
formed in the US, we used incidence data from Olmsted
County, Minnesota (80) and prevalence data from inter-
national studies (79,81) to infer SS prevalence in the US.
The population-based study in Olmsted County was
based on existing records, reflected physician-diagnosed
cases, and included few confirmatory labial salivary
gland biopsies. The Chinese study (79) examined a
substantial population in clinics that served and were
likely to be representative of the general Chinese pop-
ulation. The Greek study included only women (81). The
PREVALENCE OF RHEUMATIC DISEASES IN THE US, PART I21
cumulative incidence data from Olmsted County and the
data from China and Greece suggest a similar preva-
lence estimate for SS of ?0.6% (600 per 100,000), which
may be as low as 0.19% or as high as 1.39% according to
the highest and lowest confidence intervals from the
Using the Olmsted County prevalence estimates
and the corresponding 2005 population estimates from
the Census Bureau, we estimated that 1.3 million Amer-
ican adults (range 0.4–3.1 million) have primary SS. The
Olmsted County estimates are generalizable to the white
US population, but their generalizability to other racial/
ethnic populations is uncertain, as is the generalizability
of the data from the international studies.
The burden of a chronic condition can be mea-
sured in various ways. The NADW has chosen to focus
on national disease prevalence as an important measure
for this report and previous publications (5,6), because
prevalence includes people with existing disease as well
as those with new disease. Incidence (new cases), a
competing measure, can provide a picture of how a
disease is newly affecting a population, but is very
difficult to measure because it requires a record of the
date of disease onset, which is difficult to come by for
most of the conditions of interest, especially in the
The prevalence of overall arthritis in the US has
continued to grow since our last estimate (6), which is
not surprising given that many of these conditions are
age related and the overall population is aging. This
increase suggests that overall arthritis will have a grow-
ing impact on the health care and public health systems
in the future, one that needs to be anticipated in order to
provide the early diagnosis and interventions that could
help reduce that impact. Of interest is the decline in the
prevalence of RA, which is consistent with findings of
other studies but has no clear explanation.
We have provided estimates of prevalence and
numbers of persons affected for overall arthritis and for
selected rheumatic conditions in this and the companion
article (4) and given a rough snapshot of current burden.
These estimates have been made by recognized disease
experts using the best data available, but, as noted in
many of the sections, must be interpreted with several
limitations in mind.
First, there may be competing case definitions for
each disease, which may vary by symptoms, signs, labo-
ratory results, and radiographic and other factors used in
various classification criteria. Second, there may be
difficulty in deciding the appropriate measurement in-
terval for a disease (e.g., gout), resulting in compromises
such as 1-year prevalence and lifetime prevalence esti-
mates. Third, many of these conditions (e.g., SLE) are
difficult to diagnose even by experienced clinicians,
especially early in the course of disease, which may
necessitate the inclusion of patients with suspected
disease as well as those classified as having definite
disease, and may result in missed cases. Fourth, some of
these conditions may not be chronic in the traditional
sense but rather may have extended remissions (e.g.,
pauciarticular juvenile arthritis, “burnt out” RA) or be
episodic by nature (e.g., gout) or because of good
treatment (e.g., RA). These potential difficulties must
be kept in mind when interpreting prevalence estimates.
Fifth, for many conditions the studies of prevalence have
been infrequent, leading to wide variation in competing
estimates (e.g., 8-fold range in estimates for primary SS
and 4-fold range in estimates for overall spondylarthriti-
des), or may be small, leading to wide confidence
intervals around the estimate, or may lack specific data
(e.g., information on age, sex, and race) to allow extrap-
olation to larger populations. Sixth, some of the esti-
mates are based on data that are old (e.g., estimates of
overall osteoarthritis rely on data from the 1971–1975
NHANES; estimates of SLE rely on San Francisco data
from the 1970s), meaning that any changes occurring
since those studies were conducted are not taken into
account. Seventh, most of the specific conditions have
not been studied from a national perspective, necessi-
tating assumptions about the generalizability of avail-
able but more localized data in generating national
Finally, many of the estimates are based on data
from a single study site in Rochester (Olmsted County),
Minnesota and raise the question of just how represen-
tative that site is. The Rochester Epidemiology Project
(REP) represents one of the best data sources for
estimating the US prevalence of any disease (not just
arthritis), and because of its expense is unlikely to be
replicated elsewhere. The unique capabilities of the
REP allow enumeration of the entire Olmsted County
population over many years of followup (typically de-
cades) and provide an accurate account of in- and
out-migration as well as deaths. There is no other
community in the US where this is feasible. No single
community can be fully representative of the US popu-
lation, but this issue has been examined well in the
long-running REP, and the limitations described. Com-
parisons of these studies with US Census data and other
22 HELMICK ET AL
published literature have shown that, with the exception
of a higher proportion of the working population being
employed in the health care industry, the demographic
characteristics of the Rochester population are similar
to those of the majority of the US (i.e., whites) (87).
Therefore, while the REP is often the only source of
relevant data, these data have uncertain generalizability
to nonwhite populations.
We have presented the best available prevalence
estimates and tried to identify many of the gaps and
limitations in their interpretation. Given the large and
growing burden of arthritis and other rheumatic condi-
tions, we hope this work will inspire studies that better
address these gaps and limitations and provide a better
understanding of the burden of these conditions.
Dr. Helmick had full access to all of the data in the study and
takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the
Study design. Helmick, Felson, Lawrence, Gabriel, Kwoh, Liang,
Acquisition of data. Helmick, Felson, Maradit Kremers, Liang, Mayes,
Merkel Pillemer, Reveille, Stone.
Analysis and interpretation of data. Helmick, Felson, Gabriel, Mara-
dit Kremers, Kwoh, Liang, Mayes, Merkel, Pillemer, Reveille, Stone.
Manuscript preparation. Helmick, Felson, Lawrence, Gabriel, Hirsch,
Maradit Kremers, Kwoh, Liang, Mayes, Merkel, Pillemer, Reveille,
Statistical analysis. Helmick, Liang.
Project initiation and organization. Lawrence.
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