Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by inflammation of the peripheral joints of the hands and feet. Approximately 0.3-1% of the world population is known to be affected, with the disease being more common in women and in developed countries. The etiology is largely unknown, though genetic and environmental factors are thought to play a role in a multi-step disease onset and in disease progression. If left untreated RA can lead to joint erosion, affecting functional abilities and quality of life of patients. Within 10 years of onset, at least 50% of patients in developed countries are unable to hold down a full-time job, indicating the major impact the disease can have on a patient’s physical and mental health. The course of RA is often characterized as fluctuant, with periods of increased symptomatology, referred to as flares and times at which disease activity seems absent, termed remission.
The objectives of this thesis are to investigate the influence of patients’ perceptions of disease on medication decisions and to study how self-reported information from patients with RA can be interpreted and integrated in the monitoring and treatment of their disease. These objectives were operationalized in the following general research questions.Download Thesis