The unknown risks of arthritis

Arthritis, in particular rheumatoid arthritis (RA), has devastating effects on the body, causing many debilitating effects and leaving many patients immobile or able to function normally. However, there are also some additional effects associated with the disease which are less well known, but just as threatening. A number of studies presented at the Annual European Congress of Rheumatology provide new data on the risks of cardiovascular diseases for RA patients, as well as some of the risks associated with the new therapies in the area, that are just beginning to emerge.


Today (Friday 23 June), Dr. Ulf Bergstrm will present the results of a study showing that, despite changes in the management of rheumatoid arthritis in the last 20 years, there is no significant impact on co-morbidity related to cardiovascular diseases, in particular, related to myocardial infarction (heart attack).

As recognized by the investigators, patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have a shortened lifespan when compared to people with same gender and similar age and recent studies suggest that this is largely due to increased mortality from premature cardiovascular disease, in particular myocardial infarction. As the medical field has gained a better understanding of rheumatoid arthritis, the management of it has changed significantly in terms of medical treatments and physiotherapy.

The study evaluates the effects of the changes in management of RA on the cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in patients with established RA during 1978 to 2002, by analyzing two separate patient studies from 1978 and 1995 (with an 8 year follow-up), and compared to the corresponding background population. The study found no significant changes in the cardiovascular morbidity between the two studies (standardized mortality ratios: 158 (CI: 111-225) and 168 (CI: 118-232) for the 1978 and 1

Contact: Mia Gannedahl
European League Against Rheumatism

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