Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common etiology for inflammatory arthritis in the older population, with an estimated prevalence of 2%. An older individual with inflammatory polyarthritis usually falls into one of two categories. The first consists of patients with well-established long-standing disease, whose course is often confounded by end organ damage and toxicity related to antirheumatic drugs. The other category comprises patients with late-onset inflammatory polyarthritis, whose presentation is often nonspecific and, thus, more elusive to diagnose. Systemic lupus erythematous can also occur in the older adult; it is less prevalent than rheumatoid arthritis and is associated with multiple organ involvement, including musculoskeletal symptoms.
Key words: rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, inflammatory polyarthritis, late-onset disease.