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.
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.
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?
The fatigue that often accompanies rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can be as distressing and disabling as the pain – and often harder to treat. RA-related fatigue has been associated with molecules called cytokines that promote inflammation, such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF), and the use of biologics that block TNF have been shown to somewhat reduce fatigue. But a new study published online in the journal Rheumatology quantifies just how stubborn RA-related fatigue is – even when the disease itself is well controlled with an anti-TNF medication – and characterizes which patients are most likely to beat it.
Continue reading Study Shows Fatigue Persists in Some Cases Even When Rheumatoid Arthritis Is Controlled
If you have a few – or a lot – of pounds to lose, you know that carrying excess weight around can stress your painful or fragile joints. But research shows that the mechanical effects of weight are just part of the problem.
Fat itself releases chemicals including tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and interleukin-1 (IL-1) that promote inflammation. These chemicals may not only increase the risk of developing some forms of arthritis, but they may also increase arthritis severity or make it harder to control.
In fact a study presented at the 2015 annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology found that for people with early rheumatoid arthritis (RA), being overweight or obese can reduce the chance of achieving sustained remission.
Continue reading Being Overweight Can Hurt Rheumatoid Arthritis Remission
People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are likely to have a much better quality of life today than they did two decades ago. Researchers in the Netherlands observed more than 1,100 patients diagnosed with RA between 1990 and 2011. They attribute the gains to earlier diagnosis, more aggressive medications and a greater emphasis on overall well-being. Their findings were published in Arthritis Care & Research in 2014.
Lead author Cecile Overman, a postdoctoral researcher at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, says she and her colleagues wanted to determine if improved treatments over the last 20 years led to better physical and psychological health for RA patients. Continue reading Outlook Brighter For People With Rheumatoid Arthritis
With the advent of early, aggressive treatment and more effective drugs, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients are facing joint surgery much less than they were 20 years ago.
When rheumatologist Erdal Diri started working at Trinity Health Center in Minot, N.D., more than a decade ago, he saw many RA patients referred to him by surgeons frustrated by the levels of joint inflammation they saw. Better inflammation-fighting drugs and a new approach to treating RA more aggressively have changed that, he says. From an average of 30 to 40 RA patients per year being sent for surgery at this rural hospital, Dr. Diri now sends only 4 or 5.
Research Backs a Decline in RA Joint Surgeries
A study conducted by rheumatologists at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and published in Journal of Rheumatology in March 2012, tracked surgeries among 813 RA patients from 1980 to 2007. The researchers, led by Eric L. Matteson, MD, found that the incidence of any joint surgery within 10 years of diagnosis went from 27.3% in the 1980 to 1994 period, to 19.5% in the 1995 to 2007 period.
Continue reading Early Control of RA Inflammation Prevents Joint Surgery
Slow-healing wounds, including leg and foot ulcers, are a known complication of several autoimmune inflammatory diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA), lupus and scleroderma. For many people, these wounds can take months or even years to heal.
“People with RA develop wounds for many reasons,” says Eric Matteson, MD, chairman of rheumatology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. “One is that they may have low-grade vasculitis – inflammation affecting the small blood vessels in the skin. When the wound is related to the underlying systemic inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis, not having that inflammation under control makes it much more difficult to achieve good wound healing.”