Arthritis Watch

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RA Rates Rise in Women

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) among women is seeing a surgeagain after declining for 4 decades. From 1955 to 1994, theincidence of RA was falling, but the trends began to shift in themid-1990s. RA is now diagnosed in about 54 of every 100,000women, compared with about 36 in every 100,000 women inearlier decades.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that overall, the percentageof the entire population with the disease increasedfrom 0.85% to 0.95%. "This is a significant finding and an indicatorthat more research needs to be done to better understandthe causes and treatment of this devastating disease,"said lead investigator Sherine E. Gabriel, MD.

The reasons behind the increase are unknown. The researchershypothesize that environmental factors may be partof the cause. Studies have suggested an association betweenRA and diet, coffee intake, alcohol consumption, and bodymass index. A causal relationship, however, has not beenshown. Many researchers believe one or more infectiousagents might act as a trigger for the disease, yet no definitiveresearch has identified a virus or other agent.

Weight Bad for Knee Osteoarthritis

Middle-aged, obese adults face greater risk of developingosteoarthritis of the knee by age 85, found a study reported inArthritis Care & Research (September 15, 2008). The study wasbased on analyzing data on >3000 patients in North Carolinaover a 13-year period.

The patients were interviewed and given a clinical exam,including x-rays and body mass index measurements. Thestudy results showed that obese patients had a much higherlifetime risk—64.5%—versus 34.9% for normal-weight and44.1% for overweight participants. Furthermore, the patientswith prior knee injuries in their lifetime also had greater risk,compared with patients without injuries (56.8% vs 42.3%).

Quit Smoking to ImproveArthritis

The findings of a preliminary study show that patients withrheumatoid arthritis (RA) may see an improvement in theircondition if they quit smoking.

The study included >14,000 patients with RA who weredivided into 3 groups: nonsmokers, smokers, and formersmokers. At study onset, 1851 patients were active smokers,but a fifth agreed to stop smoking. Presenting the study at theannual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology, leadresearcher Mark C. Fisher, MD, said that patients who quitsmoking saw significant improvements in their symptoms.

RA Is Hard on Gums

A new study found that individuals with rheumatoid arthritis(RA) are at greater risk of gum disease (periodontal disease). Forthe study, the researchers looked for periodontal disease in 153patients, aged 45 to 84, who had RA for an average of 11 years.Of the patients, 82% reported periodontal symptoms, includinga history of gum disease, gum recession, and gum bleeding.

After additional research, the investigators found that gumdisease correlated significantly with a patient's RA diseaseactivity score and with rheumatoid nodules. The researchersconcluded that periodontal disease is independently linkedwith RA disease activity.

Juvenile Arthritis Does NotAffect Education, Career

Juvenile arthritis does not appear to impede young adults fromreaching the same level of education and occupation as theirpeers.

For the study, the researchers analyzed the impact of juvenilearthritis on academic and occupational outcomes duringthe transition from adolescence to adulthood (eg, 18-25 years).The study involved 45 young adults with disease, 46 peerswithout juvenile arthritis, and their parents. The findings werebased on questionnaires completed soon after the participants'18th birthdays.

Reporting in the October 2008 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism,the data indicated that the number of participants who graduatedfrom high school, were employed, and expressed interestin college or seeking employment was similar between theparticipants with juvenile arthritis and the control group. Theresults also found that the initial severity of arthritis, time sincediagnosis, and disease type had no effect on educational oroccupational ability.

Researcher Cynthia A. Gerhardt emphasized, however, that it"may be important to continue to follow these young adults overtime to better understand the development of occupational challengesshould they occur as these youth mature and continue tomanage the ongoing physical effects of their disease."

F A S T F A C T: Juvenile arthritis affects 30,000 to 50,000 children in the US annually.

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