The Rheumatoid Arthritis Severity Scale (RASS) scores the disease’s activity, functional impairment, and physical damage out of 100. However, doctors may use newer severity scales to analyze the condition.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune condition that causes inflammation, pain, and stiffness in the joints. RA severity can vary from person to person and throughout an individual’s life.

When creating a treatment plan for someone with RA, doctors may use scales, such as the RASS and newer alternatives, to measure the condition’s severity.

This article explains how the RASS works and details alternatives that doctors may prefer to use. It will also explore the outlook for those with RA.

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The RASS is a scale that doctors can use to measure the extent of someone’s RA. They rate three parameters from 0 to 100:

  • disease activity
  • functional impairment
  • physical damage.

A score of 0 indicates that there is no disease activity, functional impairment, or physical damage. However, a score of 100 corresponds to the most severe example of the parameter a doctor has seen.

An individual’s total RASS score is the sum of these individual scores. Therefore, total RASS scores range from 0 to 300.

Disease activity

There are two main aspects to disease severity, according to the RASS. The first is a joint count, which assesses how tender, swollen, or painful a person’s joints are.

The second is the sedimentation rate, which is the rate at which red blood cells settle to the bottom of a test tube within 1 hour. Doctors can use sedimentation rates to measure inflammation.

Functional impairment

Functional impairment is the degree to which RA affects a person’s life. Doctors will ask the patient how their RA influences self-care, socializing, and work. They may also want to observe the individual’s physical dexterity.

Physical damage

To assess physical damage, doctors will analyze images of a person’s joints, for instance, by using X-rays. They will look for damage, such as joint erosion.

Measuring the severity of someone’s RA can help doctors find the most appropriate treatment. However, several different scales are available to measure RA severity.

From as early as 2012, the American College of Rheumatology has recommended alternative assessment tools rather than the RASS.

As of 2019, the American College of Rheumatology recommends that doctors use any of the following RA severity scales:

  • Clinical Disease Activity Index (CDAI)
  • Disease Activity Score 28 Joints (DAS28-ESR/CRP)
  • Routine Assessment of Patient Index Data 3 (RAPID3)
  • Simplified Disease Activity Index (SDAI)
  • the Patient Activity Scale-II (PAS-II)

Other RA assessment tools

As well as the above scales, doctors may use the following scales and assessment tools to analyze a person’s RA:

  • Disease Activity Score (DAS)
  • Multi-Biomarker Disease Activity Score (MBDA score, VECTRA DA)
  • Hospital Universitario La Princesa Index (HUPI)
  • Patient-Derived DAS28
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis Disease Activity Index (RADAI)
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis Disease Activity Index 5 (RADAI-5)
  • Routine Assessment of Patient Index Data 5 (RAPID5)

RA does not have a cure and can progress throughout a person’s life. Without treatment, individuals with RA are at risk of disability and increased mortality.

Within 10 years of diagnosis, around 40% of people with RA will experience a disability that affects their work and daily activities.

However, treatment within 6 months of symptom onset can increase joint functionality and reduce disease activity. Mortality is also much lower in people with RA who receive treatment, even after 6 months from the start of initial symptoms.

According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), anyone with symptoms of RA needs to consult a doctor.

Symptoms typically affect the joints in the hands, feet, and wrists. People need to speak with a doctor if they notice the following signs in or around their joints:

Individuals may also experience more general symptoms, including fatigue and changes in appetite. They can also occasionally have a high temperature.

People with RA also need to discuss flare-ups with their doctor. RA flare-ups occur when there is a sudden increase in disease activity, which can cause symptoms to worsen.

The Rheumatoid Arthritis Severity Scale (RASS) scores disease activity, functional impairment, and physical damage. Doctors rate each category by asking questions and performing examinations. The maximum RASS score is 300.

Doctors rarely use the RASS anymore. Instead, they may rely on other scales, including the CDAI, the RAPID3, and the SDAI.

These scales can help doctors create a treatment plan for people with RA. These plans can help relieve symptoms and improve joint function and mortality rates.