Losing the Brain in RA

Rheumatoid arthritis patients with cognitive impairment more likely to have low income and low education

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) As people grow old, they may start to have problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment. Some diseases may play a role in this loss of brain function known as cognitive impairment.

Cognitive impairment may be a significant problem for people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Education, level of income, use of steroid hormones and heart disease risks may be signs of future cognitive impairment in rheumatoid arthritis patients.

"Eat healthy to protect cognitive health."

Many people are faced with cognitive impairment in their later years. Luckily, there are ways to slow and prevent the loss of brain function. One way doctors are able to protect their patients is to know who may be at risk of cognitive impairment.

Laura Julian, PhD, of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and colleagues set out to study the rates and possible predictors of cognitive impairment in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

They found that nearly 36 of 115 (31 percent) rheumatoid arthritis patients were cognitively impaired.

Patients with cognitive impairment were 6.18 times more likely to have low education and 7.12 times more likely to have low income, compared to arthritis patients without cognitive impairment.

Patients with cognitive impairment also were 2.92 times more likely to use oral glucocorticoids (oral steroid hormones) and 1.61 times more likely to have increased risks for heart disease.

According to the study's authors, these findings suggest that cognitive impairment may be a significant burden to people with rheumatoid arthritis. However, the study size was small. In addition, the results did not show what directly causes cognitive impairment in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

The authors recommend that future studies look for the specific causes of cognitive impairment in rheumatoid arthritis patients.

This research was funded by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, the National Center for Research Resources and the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at UCSF.

The study was published July 27 in Arthritis Care & Research.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 9, 2012
Last Updated:
July 23, 2014