Keep up-to-date on the latest rheumatoid arthritis (RA) research with our brief research summaries.
Obesity May Affect RA Tests
Research has shown that obesity can increase the risk of RA or worsen symptoms. A new study of more than 2,000 people with RA suggests it could also affect the results of tests used to measure RA inflammation.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found a link between body mass index (BMI, a measure of body fat) and elevated results of two common tests – SED rate and C-reactive protein (CRP) – used in diagnosing RA and gauging its activity. Researchers say this association is related to fat mass and not RA disease activity. Doctors should consider a patient’s BMI when interpreting lab results.
Source: Arthritis Care & Research, published online April, 2017
Continue reading Rheumatoid Arthritis Research Briefs: RA Tests, Dementia, Disability
A new study presented recently at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American College of Rheumatology identifies four factors that may predict which rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients might successfully taper the dose of their biologic medication.
Although biologics are highly effective in controlling RA and its symptoms, patients in some cases prefer not to use them. Past studies have shown that it is possible to taper and even stop the medication in certain patients who are in remission once they have been successfully treated with one of these drugs.
Continue reading Research Identifies Which RA Patients May Successfully Reduce Their Biologics
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
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
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
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
Early detection and aggressive treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are vital to prevent joint damage. To spot RA and measure its progression, rheumatologists test the blood for certain biomarkers that are characteristic of RA. Although several biomarker tests – the erythrocyte sedimentation (sed) rate, the C-reactive protein (CRP), and rheumatoid factor (RF) – indicate inflammation, they are fairly non-specific to RA. So, the development of more specific biomarker tests is important. These tests allow earlier detection of RA and also pave the way for more customized care.
Below are descriptions of more specific biomarker tests that are being used to diagnose and monitor RA disease activity.
Continue reading Biomarker Tests for Rheumatoid Arthritis Improve Care
For decades, X-ray images have been used to help detect rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and to monitor for the progression of bone damage. In early RA, however, X-rays may appear normal although the disease is active – making the films useful as a baseline but not much help in getting a timely diagnosis and treatment.
Enter modern imaging techniques, including ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which can reveal early, non-bony signs of RA that are invisible on X-ray.
“Both MRI and ultrasound are more sensitive at detecting bone erosion than X-ray. In addition, they also reveal inflammation, which we could not see directly before and had to rely on blood tests and using our fingers to feel the joints,” says rheumatologist Philip Conaghan, MD, PhD, professor of musculoskeletal medicine at the University of Leeds and president of the International Society for Musculoskeletal Imaging in Rheumatology.
Continue reading The Use of Imaging Scans in the Detection and Monitoring of RA