Introduction Rheumatic diseases are among the most prevalent chronic diseases worldwide. Knowledge of their epidemiology remains scarce especially in western Asia and their recognition is still insufficient. We conducted a national study to estimate the prevalence of rheumatic diseases in Lebanon and to explore their distribution by geographic location, age, and gender.
Methods Using the Community Oriented Program for the Control of Rheumatic Diseases methodology, a random sample of 3530 individuals aged ≥15 years was interviewed. Positive respondents were evaluated by rheumatologists using the criterion of the American College of Rheumatology for the diagnosis of rheumatic diseases.
Results Prevalence rates of current and past musculoskeletal problems were 24.4% and 8.4% respectively. Shoulder (14.3%), knee (14.2%), and back (13.6%) were the most common pain sites. Point prevalence of rheumatic diseases was 15.0%. The most frequent types of rheumatic diseases were of mechanical origin, namely soft tissue rheumatism (5.8%) and osteoarthritis (4.0%). Rheumatoid arthritis (1.0%) and spondylathropathies (0.3%) constituted the most common inflammatory diseases. Coastal areas had the lowest prevalence of all diseases except for fibromyalgia. All diseases showed an increasing prevalence pattern with age and a higher prevalence among females than males.
Conclusion This is the first population based study on rheumatic diseases in Lebanon. The high burden calls for public and political attention for early detection, control and prevention. Point prevalence of individual diseases was within the range of results from other Community Oriented Program for the Control of Rheumatic Diseases surveys with some variations that can be attributed to differences in methodology and geo-ethnic factors.
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