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Health & Medicine for Senior Citizens

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.

However, improved treatment options including early therapy intervention, use of biologics, and more intensive therapy have helped to reduce disease activity.

"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.

 

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"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 years.

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.

Today

...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).


Arthritis – Rheumatoid or Osteoarthritis - Most Common in Older People

About Arthritis (MedlinePlus)

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 injury.

Autoimmune arthritis happens when your body's immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake. Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of this kind of arthritis.

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is a form of the disease that happens in children.

Infectious arthritis is an infection that has spread from another part of the body to the joint.

Psoriatic arthritis affects people with psoriasis.

Gout is a painful type of arthritis that happens when too much uric acid builds up in the body. It often starts in the big toe.

NIH: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

About Rheumatoid Arthritis (MedlinePlus)

Rheumatoid 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 people. But 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 from 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.

NIH: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

 

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