More Problems for Those With Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis sufferers with sleep problems may be in more pain

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) If you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and poor sleep quality, you may also be at risk for a number of other ailments.

A new study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing assessed the sleep quality in 162 patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and found that sleep quality has an indirect effect on functional disability after adjusting for factors such as age, gender and comorbidities (other medical conditions).

The functional disability effect may be due to greater pain severity and greater fatigue, said lead author Dr. Faith S. Luyster, research assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing, who added that treating sleep limitations in rheumatoid arthritis patients, either behaviorally or pharmacologically, may help.

The study correlates with another recent analysis, which found poor sleep quality is linked to greater pain in rheumatoid arthritis patients, suggesting that sleep disruption may lower pain thresholds.

There are approximately 1.3 million rheumatoid arthritis sufferers in the United States, about 75 percent of whom are women. Rheumatoid arthritis damages the joints, most commonly in the hands, feet, and cervical spine. Inflammation can also affects other organs and systems in the body such as the skin, lungs (fibrosis), kidneys (amyloid protein deposits), and cardiovascular system (increased risk for heart attack and stroke, as well as fibrosis and pericarditis). A clinical diagnosis can be made on the basis of symptoms, physical exam, radiographs, x-rays and lab tests. There are many prescription medications used to treat rheumatoid arthritis such as hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil®), chloroquine (Aralen®), leflunomide (Arava®), and methotrexate (Rheumatrex ®). Non-pharmacological treatment includes psychical therapy, orthoses, and nutritional therapy but these do not stop progression of joint destruction. Analgesia (painkillers) and anti-inflammatory drugs, including steroids, are used to suppress the symptoms, while disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are required to inhibit or halt the underlying immune process and prevent long-term damage. Recently the newer group of biologics, such as abatacept (Orencia®), adalimumab (Humira®), etanercept (Enbrel®), infliximab (Remicade®), and rituximab (Rituxan®) have increased treatment options.

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Review Date: 
February 16, 2011
Last Updated:
August 18, 2011