Arthritis Watch

APRIL 01, 2009

Is Depression Associated with RA?

Disability and a recent diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are linked with a greater risk for depression, according to study findings recently presented at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Scientific Meeting.

Study results indicated that patients with RA who are depressed have worse outcomes than patients with RA who are not depressed. Earlier studies regarding RA and depression included a primarily Caucasian population.

To eliminate this bias, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, created a study to evaluate predictors of depression in patients from a multiethnic group of individuals with RA at an urban hospital.

Of the 210 patients enrolled in the study, 39% had scores on the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 that indicated at least moderate depression. Patient, disease, and treatment-related information were collected to see if any of these factors were associated with depression.

The study results found that race/ethnicity, disease activity, and medications were not associated with depression. The factors related to depression are shorter disease duration and increased disability as scored on the Health Assessment Questionnaire.

Working Splints Reduce Wrist Arthritis Pain

Patients with wrist arthritis benefit from working splints, according to Dutch researchers, whose study was published in the December 2008 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism.

For the study, the researchers assessed the effectiveness of wrist splinting that allowed enough movement to perform regular activities in 33 patients with wrist arthritis. Of the patients, 17 were assigned to use a prefabricated wrist working splint and 16 acted as the control group. The patients in the splinting group were told to use the splint as much as possible during the day.

After 4 weeks, the investigators found a 32% decrease in pain scores registered on a visual analog scale in the treatment group, whereas the scores in the control group increased by 17%. Furthermore, the average grip strength scores rose by 5% in the splinting group and dropped by 8% in the control group. The researchers noted, however, that these and other differences in functional ability were not major, statistically speaking.

Teens with Arthritis Need More Counseling

Results of a study, reported in the January 2009 issue of Arthritis Care & Research, showed that children with arthritis need more assistance and information during their teen years to make sure they receive proper health care as adults.

The researchers looked at data from the 2005-2006 National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs. Four questions examined the extent to which providers discussed health care transition issues, including transfer of care to adult providers, health care needs of adults, acquiring health insurance, and encouraging self-care responsibility.

Whereas 75% of adolescents with arthritis are being encouraged to assume self-care responsibilities, only about 20% of adolescents with arthritis were given counseling on issues such as obtaining health insurance after coming of age, study results showed.

The findings mirrored similar national studies of young people with any special health care needs. “Health care transition is a complex set of tasks that are embedded within a complex developmental period and a complex health care system,” the researchers wrote.

Abnormal ECG Detected in PsA Patients

The findings from a new study advise that patients with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) may have “subtle” cardiac conduction disturbances. The researchers noted, however, that it has not yet been determined if these irregularities lead to serious heart disease.

PsA is a form of rheumatoid arthritis accompanied by psoriasis. In the study, the researchers compared the electrocardiogram (ECG) scans of 92 patients with PsA with 92 control patients, individually matched for age and sex, who did not have the condition.

“The major finding of our study,” reported the researchers in the Journal of Rheumatology (December 2008), “is a statistically significantly longer PR interval in the patients with PsA, compared with individuals without psoriasis or arthritis.” The lengthening of the PR interval is a sign of abnormal heart rhythm. The average PR interval was 8.3 milliseconds, 5.5% longer in the PsA patients, compared with the controls.

“Although the clinical relevance of this finding is questionable since the absolute difference was small, the importance of the observation is the implication of atrioventricular node involvement in the psoriatic arthritis systemic diseases,” noted the researchers.

The researchers concluded that a larger study with a follow-up period is necessary to further investigate these conduction abnormalities and to see if they are related to cardiovascular disease.

F A S T   F A C T: One in 5 (21%) adults in the United States report having doctor-diagnosed arthritis.