Currently, researchers are still investigating the cause of rheumatoid arthritis, how RA actually affects sufferers, better prevention as well as methods to treat it more effectively. Below are some examples of RA related research studies.
Severe RA Can Be Associated with Depression
RA patients can be susceptible to depression. Thus, it is important to treat their mental health as well as their autoimmune disease because depression can adversely affect RA treatment plans.
New research, conducted by the University of Manchester, has discovered that those who suffer from severe rheumatoid arthritis and are waiting to be put on biologics (i.e. a newer medical treatment for RA) should be screened for depression. Researchers found that depression can actually have a negative effect on how an individual scores on measures for activity of RA, even after beginning to take a biologic.
The study examined over 300 participants with severe RA who were waiting to go on biologic therapy. It analyzed various psychological factors that affect every portion of the current disease measures, which are known as DAS28. This score examines a patient’s total number of swollen, tender joints and the inflammation level within his or her body, as well as “self-reports” about how a patient feels.
The study results indicated that subjective response measures were influenced by various psychological factors including a participant’s mood, beliefs about their illness and their RA therapies.
As a result, doctors say it is very important to treat an RA patient’s depression since it can adversely affect DAS28 scores, causing the score to be lower than it should be when using a biologic. Untreated depression could potentially make a doctor assume the biologic drug is not effective. Hence, a RA patient’s mental health should be assessed before starting any biologic therapy.
New RA Genetic Markers Discovered
Researchers are constantly looking for new ways to treat RA. One way is to examine the human genome. International researchers have found 42 new RA related genetic markers. This significant discovery could lead to new and better rheumatoid treatments.
This large research study looked at more than 10 million genetic markers in 100,000 participants. Of that large group, almost 30,000 people had RA.
Study results revealed DNA variations at 42 genome regions associated with RA. Researchers found similarities between certain blood cancers and RA. This finding could provide new drug possibilities for effective RA treatments.
Breastfeeding May Lower the Risk of RA
As scientific research related to RA expands, additional strategies to reduce the risks of developing this autoimmune disease result. Recent research studies have discovered that breastfeeding, particularly for a long duration, may cut the risks for developing RA by as much as 50%.
Published in the medical journal Rheumatology, a clinical study looked at more than 7,000 Chinese females who were 50 years of age or older. Participants completed questionnaires to determine their specific socio-demographic status, obstetric history, lifestyle/disease history as well as their history of oral contraceptive use. In addition, the women were examined to check for RA-associated joint tenderness.
Among women who had given birth to at least one child, those participants who had breastfed their child were 50% less likely to suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. This study also revealed another statistically significant trend. Not only did the risk of developing RA decrease if a woman breastfeeds, the risk was even less if she did so for a longer duration of time.
Importantly, the study found no correlation between oral contraceptive use and rheumatoid arthritis.
However, researchers do admit that they need additional research to be conducted in order to understand the hormonal mechanisms that occur during the initial onset of RA.