Your Arthritis Might Be a Bigger Problem Than it Seems

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Arthritis, of course, is a general term for many different types of joint pain. Common types of arthritis include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout.

Osteoarthritis is a condition in which your cartilage and underlying bone start to degenerate. Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition in which the lining of your joints become inflamed. And gout is a condition caused by a build-up of uric acid crystals in the tissues and fluids of your body.

Let’s take a closer look at rheumatoid arthritis (RA) for a moment. The important thing to remember is that, more than any other form, RA is really a disease of inflammation.

Most RA sufferers take anti-inflammatory drugs to help them deal with symptoms and this can definitely boost quality of life outcomes. If you are managing your RA well through meds and/or diet, there’s one other issue you may want to turn your attention to before resting easy.

Researchers at John Hopkins University in Baltimore have discovered that inflammation associated with RA may damage more than the joints. It seems that the autoimmune disorder may also increase the risk of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a buildup of plaque in the blood vessels, which can lead to stroke and heart disease.

For the study, researchers conducted two ultrasound exams of the carotid arteries in 158 people with RA. The first test was done at the start of the study while the second was done an average of three years later. The research team then measured the thickness of the common carotid artery and the internal carotid artery. They found that 82% of people had some thickening in their common carotid artery, while 70% had thickening in the internal carotid artery.

In general, the researchers noted, high levels of inflammation in the body were associated with increased plaque deposits.

The research team hopes that this study will push everyone to think more about risk factors when dealing with RA. If someone is overweight, for example, it may be wise to see a dietitian earlier on and to look at lowering LDL cholesterol and raising HDL cholesterol.

Good news from the study: certain drugs already used in the treatment of RA appear to lessen the risk of plaque buildup. Talk to your doctor to see what medications could be helpful in this regard or what other steps you should take if you’re suffering from RA and are worried about atherosclerosis.