Keeping up with your vaccinations is always a smart move, but getting immunized is especially important when you have an autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Both RA and the medicines you take to treat it can increase your risk for infections.
When Joan Wilkinson’s RA flared, her rheumatologist insisted that she and her husband get pneumonia and shingles vaccines to protect her from these common infections. “He said, ‘When you leave here today, go straight to the pharmacist,’” she recalls.
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People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have roughly twice the risk of healthy older adults of developing shingles, a virus related to chickenpox that causes pain and a blistering rash.
Most adults have been exposed to varicella zoster virus, which causes chickenpox. This virus is never completely cleared from our bodies, but lies quietly in spinal nerve cells. If it’s reactivated it causes shingles, explains rheumatologist Jeffrey Curtis, MD, professor medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The reactivated virus is called herpes zoster or shingles.
Continue reading Rheumatoid Arthritis Raises Shingles Risk
Thanks to earlier diagnosis and more effective treatments, joint deformities in people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are becoming less frequent and severe.
What Causes Joint Deformities in RA?
In a joint affected by RA, inflammatory cells of the immune system gather in the lining of the joint (called synovium), forming a fibrous layer of abnormal tissue (called pannus). The pannus releases substances that quicken bone erosion, cartilage destruction and damage to the surrounding ligaments. The involved joints lose their shape and alignment, resulting in deformities. Severe deformities lead to loss of joint function and the need for joint replacement surgery.
Continue reading Aggressive RA Treatment May Prevent Joint Deformities
Eating fish at least twice a week may help reduce inflammation and joint pain in people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), according to a new analysis published recently in Arthritis Care & Research.
Fish oil supplements have long been known to improve pain as well as increase remission rates in RA patients taking triple therapy. This is among the first studies to show that fish itself – with lower concentrations than supplements of the active ingredients, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – may be just as good.
But, the study authors say more studies are needed, noting, “…we cannot draw firm conclusions about the impact of frequent fish consumption on RA activity.”
Continue reading Eating Fish May Relieve RA
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) don’t stop at joint pain and swelling. Most people with RA also experience mental and physical exhaustion, a symptom known as fatigue. Studies show that up to 80% of people with RA have at least some sense of feeling run down, and more than 50% have high levels of fatigue.
Terence Starz, MD, a rheumatologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, says the feeling can be described as overwhelming or different from just being tired because it is extreme and seems to come from nowhere. In fact, fatigue may have a greater impact on daily life than pain.
Continue reading Fighting the Fatigue of RA
For years, fibromyalgia was a mystery illness. No one knew what caused it, how to diagnose it or how best to treat it. Some people, including doctors, even questioned its existence. In the last few years, however, researchers have cleared up some of the mystery. Although much about fibromyalgia still isn’t understood completely, two things are clear: It’s very real, and it affects a disproportionate number of people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Continue reading RA With a Side of Fibromyalgia
Generally, patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have higher levels of inflammation in their bodies, which can affect other organs and tissues besides the joints. In fact, people with RA have up to twice the risk of heart disease and development of heart failure (especially if they test positive for rheumatoid factor, or RF) than the general population, according to a 2013 Mayo Clinic study published in the American Heart Journal.
Continue reading Risk of Heart Attack Rises After RA Diagnosis
Early studies show an implanted device that sends electrical signals to the brain via the vagus nerve has potential as a new therapy for rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Continue reading Can Nerve Stimulation Therapy Help Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Researchers set out to answer a pressing question: Is it safe for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients who have had cancer in the past to use a biologic drug rather than a traditional disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD), like methotrexate, to control their disease? Their answer, detailed in a study recently published online in the journal Rheumatology, is reassuring. They found that patients with a previous malignancy who later took certain biologics did not appear to have an increased risk of cancer after an average of five years, compared to those who took a traditional DMARD.
Continue reading Biologics Appear Safe for Some Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients Who’ve Had Cancer
Biologic drugs make it possible for many people with inflammatory types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), to achieve low disease activity or remission. But because of the drugs’ cost and the potential for serious side effects, many patients don’t want to stay on them indefinitely, so researchers have been looking at whether it’s possible to taper or stop them. A new study, published recently in Arthritis & Rheumatology, is adding to the growing body of research on the topic.
Continue reading Study: Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis Flare Triples in People Who Stop Anti-TNFs