Entries in Rheumatoid Arthritis (7)


Moderate Alcohol Consumption May Help Women's Bones, Joints

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Two new studies suggest that drinking alcohol can help ward off two diseases that affect millions of women: rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis.  But the research is among several studies that paint a confusing picture of how alcohol affects women's health.  Doctors say the key, as always, is moderation.

One of the studies investigated alcohol consumption and its effect on rheumatoid arthritis in more than 34,000 Swedish women between the ages of 54 and 89.  The researchers had contacted the women in 1987 and 1997, surveying them about their alcohol use.  Then they started keeping close tabs on the women, scouring Swedish national registries for those who were diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis between 2003 and 2009.

The women who reported moderate alcohol consumption -- those drinking 17 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.7 ounces of liquor three times or more each week -- had a 52 percent decreased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis compared with those who never drank at all.

The researchers noticed that the women who drank more alcohol were also more likely to smoke, which is a risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis.  But they found that moderate drinking reduced the risk for current smokers to 33 percent, though the benefits of the alcohol were not as marked for smokers as for never-smokers, for whom moderate drinking reduced RA risk by 62 percent.

The study was published Tuesday in the British Medical Journal.

A small group of women in Oregon who had a few drinks each week also seemed to benefit in a surprising place: their bones.

Researchers at Oregon State University studied 40 postmenopausal women under age 65 who reported drinking up to two drinks per day in the year before the study, watching what happened when they asked these women to stop drinking for two weeks.

When these regular moderate drinkers cut out alcohol, the researchers found that their blood showed higher levels of biomarkers linked to bone turnover, a natural process that goes awry when more bone is lost than is replaced, which leads to osteoporosis.  When the women started drinking again, their bone turnover seemed to improve even after one day of moderate alcohol consumption.

Ursula Iwaniec, one of the authors of the study, published Wednesday in the journal Menopause, said alcohol seemed to benefit these postmenopausal women, but it may not be the best solution for women hoping to improve their bone health.

"I wouldn't start drinking just for this reason that it's going to make my bones better," she said.

That moderate drinking seems to affect women's health is not surprising.  Alcohol raises levels of estrogen, the hormone that affects many aspects of women's health, including arthritis and osteoporosis.  Alcohol also raises the "good" cholesterol, HDL, and can have positive effects on blood pressure and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

But the news on booze is not all good.  Recent studies have found that even one drink a day raises a woman's risk of breast cancer.  Experts also note that alcohol is liquid calories, and drinking too much contributes to weight gain and other factors of unhealthy lifestyles.  And although alcoholism is diagnosed less frequently in women than in men, women are at higher risk because alcohol has a greater effect on their bodies.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Can Arthritis Drug Help Asthma Sufferers?

Spike Mafford/Thinkstock(BRISBANE, Australia) -- New research into the genetics behind asthma risk suggests a potential new treatment for the debilitating disorder could be a drug also used for rheumatoid arthritis.

Scientists led by Manuel Ferreira of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, in Brisbane, Australia, compared the genomes of thousands of individuals with asthma to those of non-asthmatics and identified two new genetic variants that increase people's susceptibility to asthma.  Both variants affect the way the body releases chemical signals involved in immunity and inflammation.  It's the interaction between genes and the environment that leads to asthma.

"There have been many genetic variants that have been shown to be asthma risks, and these are two more," said Dr. Harold Nelson, allergist and professor of medicine at National Jewish Health in Denver.  "They're all important because they give you clues to the mechanisms that lie behind asthma."

Nelson -- who was not involved in this study -- and other specialists say this type of research can possibly lead to more treatments for asthma in people with these genetic variants, including the use of drugs that are already used for other conditions.

"There's a theoretical possibility that if you could modify genetic signals using a medication, you might be able to alter the risk for asthma and allergic sensitization," said Dr. Stanley Fineman, president-elect of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.  Fineman also had no involvement in the Australian research.

The authors say tocilizumab, a drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, could be a good option for treating asthma in people with one of the variants they identified and suggest that clinical trials could be beneficial.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Rheumatoid Arthritis Takes Toll on Young Adults

BananaStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A surprising number of the 1.3 million Americans suffering with rheumatoid arthritis are young adults from 18 to 40.

These are prime years for building careers and having children, when they can hardly afford to have plans disrupted.

"The best estimate of risk is 1 in 400 to 1 in 500 women in their 20s and probably closer to 1 in 1,000 or less in men [in their 20s]," said Dr. John M. Davis III, a consulting rheumatologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.  "The peak age of onset is in the mid-50s."

The higher incidence among women reflects the likely influence of hormones on the interplay of genetics and environmental factors thought to underlie the disease.

Young adult patients easily slip between the cracks because, frequently, they don't look sick, even as the disorder inflames and then chews up the lining of their joints and silently ravages their eyes, damages their hearts, and scars their lungs.

Sometimes, youthful invincibility and denial also delay diagnoses for relatively young victims.

Dr. Eric M. Ruderman -- a rheumatologist and associate professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago -- and his colleagues recommend early use of biologic drugs to stave off the joint damage that compromises quality of life and leads to disability.  

The biggest side effect of the medications is infection, with a rare but potentially troubling side effect of lymphoma. Ruderman, who has been a paid consultant to manufacturers of several of these drugs, said RA itself is associated with double or triple the risk of lymphoma and that, so far, the risk of side effects doesn't seem to increase with duration of biologic drug treatment.

Unlike older patients, those diagnosed as young adults might be on the medications for many decades, assuming they have insurance that covers what can run to tens of thousands of dollars a year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients More Likely to Develop COPD

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- A new study finds that rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients are two times more likely to develop the breathing disorder called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Researchers from Israel presented their findings at the European League Against Rheumatism annual conference in London.  

RA is an autoimmune disease that causes pain and swelling in the joints as well as other parts of the body such as the lungs or mouth.

With data from Clalit Health Services, the largest healthcare provider in Israel, the researchers were able to compare the information of nearly 16,000 RA patients over the age of 20.  Each participant was matched for age and gender with the study, including over 15,000 healthy controls such as smoking, lifestyle habits or obesity.

They found that COPD showed up in 8.9 percent of RA patients compared with only 4.4 percent in the healthy controls.

"We know that similar changes in core physiological processes cause symptoms in RA and COPD, and we hope that the results of our study prompts new research into potential links between altered genetic and autoimmune processes in the two conditions," said researcher Dr. Howard Amital of the Sheba Medical Centre in Israel.

Because these findings presented at the conference have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, it should be considered preliminary.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Poorer Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients More Susceptible to Depression

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and belonging to lower socioeconomic groups experience more depression than do more affluent patients, researchers say.

While other studies have looked at the effects of functional disabilities or socioeconomic status, researchers at the University of California San Francisco conducted the first study analyzing whether an association between disability and depression is different in relation to socioeconomic status.

"If an interaction is present, then there is a group of vulnerable patients who could benefit from earlier identification and treatment," researchers wrote in the study.

The study further states that a possible explanation for the link between depression and RA patients possessing economic deficiencies could be that these patients simply have fewer resources and less support.

Researchers of the study concluded that recognizing the relationship between the socioeconomic status and psychological effects in RA patients can reveal a certain population of people at higher risk for depression, and furthermore, guide future treatment methods and prevention in susceptible patients.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio ´╗┐


Research Pinpoints Your Risk of Autoimmune Disease

Photo Coutesy - Getty Images(ROCHESTER, Minn.) – New research has revealed the average risk an American will face of developing an autoimmune disease in their lifetime, reports WebMD.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic say that one in 12 women and one in 20 men will develop such a disease over the course of their lives.

"We estimated the lifetime risk for rheumatic disease for both sexes, something that had not been done before," researcher Cynthia Crowson said. "Prevalence and incidence rates existed, but prevalence figures underestimate individual risk and incidence rates express only a yearly estimate."

The most common autoimmune disease is rheumatoid arthritis, followed by polymyalgia rheumatic. According to the research, 3.6 percent of women and 1.7 percent of men will develop rheumatoid arthritis while 2.4 percent of women and 1.7 percent of men will develop PMR.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hope for Rheumatoid Arthritis Sufferers

Image Courtesy - Getty Images(BEIJING) -- Researchers at China's Peking University may have found new hope for people who suffer from Rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Experiments have shown that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) from umbilical cord blood can suppress inflammation.  The research, described in BioMed Central's open access journal, Arthritis Research and Therapy, has been done in vitro and on animals.

Experts say there is very little known about MSCs but they are believed to exert profound immunosuppression.  That could mean they are very beneficial for those with autoimmune diseases such as RA.

Researchers at Peking University took immune cells from RA patients and found that the umbilical MSCs were able to suppress the cells' growth, invasive ´╗┐behavior and inflammatory responses.  The doctors say because RA places such a burden on health care systems nationwide and causes so much pain for patients, a dramatic new treatment could mean major improvements in dealing with the disease.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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