FRIDAY, Dec. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Among people with rheumatoid
arthritis, 11 percent of those surveyed didn't know what a
rheumatologist is, even if they had been seeing one for quite a
In addition, more than one in 10 people surveyed couldn't
decipher other medical words related to rheumatoid arthritis, such
as "osteoporosis" and "cartilage."
Researchers who conducted the survey noted that previous
findings have suggested that low levels of what is called health
literacy could contribute to poorer health.
Nearly 200 people at a university rheumatology clinic took part
in the survey. They were asked if they recognized general medical
words and words linked specifically to rheumatology and
The researchers found that 18 percent of those who took the
general health literacy test showed signs of having an eighth-grade
reading level or less, as did 24 percent of those who took the
arthritis-specific test. But none had a reading level of
third-grade or below, which is considered severely low
More than 10 percent of the people surveyed didn't recognize the
words "diagnose" and "symptom," and 13 percent failed to recognize
"anti-inflammatory," the investigators found. Many people were also
unfamiliar with names of common drugs that treat arthritis.
Previous research has suggested that people with less education
are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis.
The new study, led by researcher Christopher J. Swearingen of
the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, is published in
the December issue of
JCR: Journal of Clinical Rheumatology.
"Low literacy may be a mutable risk factor for poor health and outcomes in rheumatic and other chronic diseases," the study authors wrote. "Reduction of literacy-related barriers may help to narrow widening disparities in health according to socioeconomic status."
For more about
rheumatoid arthritis, visit the U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.