Spotting Disability With RA

Disability in rheumatoid arthritis may be predicted by irreversible joint damage

(RxWiki News) Rheumatoid arthritis can take a toll on your body, making it hard to do even the simplest of tasks. In the U.S., Hispanics with rheumatoid arthritis generally are more disabled than whites. But why?

Pain was the strongest factor related to disability in Hispanics with rheumatoid arthritis, according to recent research.

That is, Hispanic patients with higher levels of pain may become more disabled than those with lower levels of pain.

"Get treated for rheumatoid arthritis to prevent future disability."

For their study, George A. Karpouzas, MD, of Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, and colleagues wanted to what factors were leading to disability in Hispanics with rheumatoid arthritis.

While they found that pain had the strongest relationship with disability, other factors were signs of disability. These other factors included:

  • irreversible articular damage, or joint damage that is beyond repair
  • level of disease activity
  • depression
  • age
  • fibromyalgia - a condition in which a person has long-term pain and tenderness throughout the body

The researchers found that some of these factors were not only signs of current disability, but also could predict disability 6 months later.

The strongest predictor of future disability was irreversible joint damage, followed by depression, disease activity, age and pain.

Except for age, all of these risk factors for disability can be controlled. In other words, patients and their doctors can take steps to prevent permanent joint damage, treat depression, reduce disease activity and ease pain.

These findings suggest that future disability may be slowed or prevented in Hispanics with rheumatoid arthritis.

The study included 251 Hispanic subjects. The researchers recorded participants' disease activity, blood samples, X-rays, treatments, joint damage and joint replacement surgeries. Patients reported their disability using the Health Assessment Questionnaire disability index. Levels of pain and depression were also recorded.

The research was published August 27 in Arthritis Care & Research, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology.

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Review Date: 
September 3, 2012