Out of the Trenches: A Review of Modern Rheumatology’s Relationship with War

Author(s): Malini Alexander

This paper provides a brief review of how wars in recent history have shaped the development of rheumatology as a medical specialty. This history is not widely known in the medical field and appears to have been forgotten. However, it is important to the field of both military medicine and rheumatology in a civilian context. Many rheumatic diseases were recognised for the first time as a result of doctors treating arthritis in soldiers during World War I and World War II. Chemical Weapons in both wars lead to the discovery of many Disease Modifying Anti Rheumatic Drugs still commonly used today in rheumatology. During World War I, 93,000 cases of arthritis were reported in US troops. Ten years after the end of World War I in the US, the government was paying $10,000,000 a year to around 35,000 ex-service personnel for disabilities as a result of chronic arthritis, demonstrating arthritis in military history is significant.

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