Rheumatoid Arthritis Disability, Distress Cut in
Half in Last 20 Years
RA patients have better opportunity of living valued
life than patients with this autoimmune disease two decades ago
Dec. 3, 2013 - New research reveals that patients
with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), common in seniors, have an easier time
with daily living today than did patients diagnosed two decades ago. The
study reveals anxiety, depressed mood and physical disability have been
cut in half over the last 20 years. Researchers believe a reduction in
disease activity is partly responsible for this positive change.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that
up to one percent of the world population experience pain and swelling
of joints caused by RA, a systemic autoimmune disease. It often starts
in middle age but is most common in older people.
Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, is often related to
aging or to an injury. (Read more about arthritis diseases below.)
Over time, RA may impair daily function and lead to
significant disability, with studies showing the disease is a threat to
physical function and psychological well-being.
treatment options including early therapy intervention, use of
biologics, and more intensive therapy have helped to reduce disease
"Earlier diagnosis, more intensive interventions
along with recommendations to live a full life and to be physically
active may help improve daily living for those with RA," explains lead
author, Cιcile L. Overman, a Ph.D. Candidate with the Department of
Clinical and Health Psychology, Utrecht University in The Netherlands.
"Our study examined if psychological distress and
physical disability in RA patients reduced over the last two decades."
For the present study, researchers recruited 1151
with newly diagnosed RA between 1990 and 2011. Participants were 17 to
86 years of age with 68% being female. Each participant was assessed at
the time of diagnosis and monitored for the following three to five
Following is a comparison of reported anxiety,
depressed mood and physical disability by patients after the first four
years of treatment 20 years ago and today:
Twenty Years Ago
... 23% of RA patients reported anxiety,
... 25% depressed mood, and
... 53% had physical disability.
...12% of RA patients reported anxiety,
...14% depressed mood, and
31% had physical disability.
The decrease in physical disability remained
significant even after adjusting for reduced disease activity. Results
suggest that the downward trend in physical disability, anxiety, and
depressed mood may be due in part to reduced disease activity.
"Our study determined that currently, 1 out of 4
newly diagnosed RA patients are disabled after the first four years of
treatment; while 20 years ago, that figure was higher at 2 out of 4
patients," concludes Ms. Overman.
"Today, RA patients have a better opportunity of
living a valued life than patients diagnosed with this autoimmune
disease two decades ago."
Results of the study published in Arthritis Care
& Research, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR).
Rheumatoid or Osteoarthritis - Most Common in Older People
If you feel pain and stiffness in
your body or have trouble moving around, you might have arthritis. Most
kinds of arthritis cause pain and swelling in your joints. Joints are
places where two bones meet, such as your elbow or knee. Over time, a
swollen joint can become severely damaged. Some kinds of arthritis can
also cause problems in your organs, such as your eyes or skin.
Types of arthritis include
Osteoarthritis is the
most common type of arthritis. It's often related to aging or to an
Autoimmune arthritis happens when
your body's immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake.
is the most common form of this kind of arthritis.
arthritis (RA) is a form of arthritis that causes pain, swelling,
stiffness and loss of function in your joints. It can affect any joint
but is common in the wrist and fingers.
More women than men get rheumatoid
arthritis. It often starts in middle age and is most common in older
children and young adults can also get it. You might have the
disease for only a short time, or symptoms might come and go. The severe
form can last a lifetime.
Rheumatoid arthritis is different
osteoarthritis, the common arthritis that often comes with older
age. RA can affect body parts besides joints, such as your eyes, mouth
and lungs. RA is an
autoimmune disease, which means the arthritis results from your
immune system attacking your body's own tissues.
No one knows what causes rheumatoid
arthritis. Genes, environment and hormones might contribute. Treatments
include medicine, lifestyle changes and surgery. These can slow or stop
joint damage and reduce pain and swelling.