Muscle and Fat are Signs of RA Disability

Rheumatoid arthritis patients with more fat and less muscle may be more disabled

(RxWiki News) To best treat rheumatoid arthritis, doctors need to know how the disease is taking a toll on patients' joints. But it's not always easy to tell how disabled a patient is. So, how can doctors measure disability?

Higher thigh fat and decreased muscle may be signs of disability in people with rheumatoid arthritis, according to a recent study.

"Lower fat and increase muscle to reduce arthritis."

Jon T. Giles, MD, MPH, of Columbia University, and colleagues put 152 rheumatoid arthritis patients through a CT scan to measure thigh fat area, thigh muscle area and thigh muscle density.

They found that patients with more thigh fat area and less thigh muscle density had higher levels of disability.

Lower thigh muscle area was not linked to higher levels of disability.

More specifically, patients with higher thigh fat area and lower thigh muscle density had lower Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) scores, lower Short Form 36 (SF-36) health survey physical functioning scores, lower Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB) scores and more affected Valued Life Activities.

HAQ and SF-36 are questionnaires that measure patients' disability. The SPPB measures how well people can complete easy movements like a short walk, standing up and sitting down in a chair, and balance. Valued Life Activities are those activities that are a part of everyday life.

The study's authors concluded that reducing fat and boosting muscle quality may reduce disability in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the American College of Rheumatology.

The research was published July 27 in Arthritis & Rheumatism, a journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

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Review Date: 
August 22, 2012