Those living with rheumatoid arthritis know the condition can cause severe pain, swelling and tenderness of the joints, but new research shows it may also be linked to other major chronic health conditions.
A new study presented at the Annual European Congress of Rheumatology last week claimed many patients diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) will also develop rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes pain and swelling of the joints in the feet, wrists, elbows, ankles, knees and hands. While the immune system fights off infections to keep the body healthy, it attacks the lining of the joints in people with the condition. It can affect people of all ages, but is more common in the older population.
Meanwhile, type 1 diabetes is a lifelong issue where blood glucose levels are elevated because of the body’s inability to produce insulin. IBD on the other hand is an umbrella term given to an array of disorders that involve chronic inflammation of the digestive tract.
The most common types of IBD include Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis – both of which can severely impact quality of life and even lead to life-threatening complications.
Researchers analysed 821 patients with rheumatoid arthritis and each participant was then matched with a controlled group of people of the same age, sex and location but without the condition. When compared to the controlled group, researchers discovered “significantly more” cases of IBD and type 1 diabetes in those with rheumatoid arthritis.
“While it is common for patients to have both type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, our results suggest that inflammatory bowel disease and type 1 diabetes may predispose to rheumatoid arthritis development, which merits further study,” researcher Vanessa Kronzer said.
Researchers also observed that comorbidities (having one or more other conditions at the same time as the primary condition) were more common in people with rheumatoid arthritis. There were higher levels of other serious health issues such as venous thromboembolism and epilepsy in those with rheumatoid arthritis, while heart attacks were also more prevalent.
In contrast, high cholesterol – which can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke – was actually less common in the rheumatoid arthritis group, while cancer wasn’t more common in either group. Researchers also noticed that the number of comorbidities was the same in both groups prior to a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis, but that the numbers significantly increased after a diagnosis.
“These results are important because understanding the timeline of comorbidity development in patients with rheumatoid arthritis will inform our knowledge of the disease progression and help identify targets for improving outcomes,” researcher Hans Bijlsma said.
The latest research follows a 2017 study published in the Science Translational Medicine Journal that found a type of E. coli bacteria found in people with Crohn’s disease that can trigger inflammation associated with another type of arthritis called spondyloarthritis.
Diabetes has also be linked with rheumatoid arthritis in the past, with a study involving more than 109,000 people presented at last year’s European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) Annual Meeting claiming diabetes was linked with a 33 per cent increase risk of osteoarthritis and 70 per cent higher risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.