If you have RA, you’re at risk for other diseases

woman_elbow_stockphotoWe all know how debilitating rheumatoid arthritis is. RA is a chronic disease that causes pain, stiffness, swelling, and limitation in the motion and function of multiple joints. Though joints are the principal body parts affected by RA, inflammation can develop in other organs as well. Unfortunately, the pain doesn’t end there. Women with rheumatoid arthritis are at significantly higher risk of all-cause mortality, compared to women without the disease, according to according to new research findings at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting in Boston.

Using data from the Nurses’ Health Study conducted on 121,700 women gathered from 1976 to 2012, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston validated 964 incident RA cases and identified 28,808 deaths in the entire cohort with 36 years of follow-up. Of the 307 deaths among women with RA, 26 percent were from cancer, 23 percent from cardiovascular disease, and 16 percent from respiratory causes. In contrast, women without RA died from the following causes: 41 percent from cancer, 22 percent from cardiovascular disease, and 7 percent from respiratory causes.

Compared to women without RA, the researchers determined that women with RA had 40 percent increased mortality from all causes, after adjusting for age and other mortality risk factors. This was likely driven by cardiovascular and respiratory causes, but cancer did not appear to be increased. Women with seropositive RA had significantly 51 percent higher risk of death compared to women without RA, whereas the mortality risk in seronegative RA was not statistically different from non-RA women.

This could possibly be because of lowered immune system since RA is an auto immune condition. A lowered immunity and high inflammation as characterised in RA, becomes the breeding ground for other diseases as well. On top of that, traditional treatment for RA suppresses immunity even further, creating a vicious cycle of lowered-immunity-higher-diseases. Researchers found that each five years of having RA increased the women’s mortality by 11 percent compared to women without the disease. Women with seropositive RA had almost three times the respiratory mortality risk compared to women without RA, but women with seronegative RA had no such increased risk. For women with RA, respiratory deaths were due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia, chronic interstitial lung disease, asthma and other respiratory diseases.

The researchers concluded that women diagnosed with RA have a 1.4 fold increased risk of death from any cause compared to women without RA.

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The above story is based on materials provided by American College of Rheumatology (ACR). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Photo courtesy: www.niams.nih.gov

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