Rheumatoid Arthritis May Double Risk of COPD

Link between the autoimmune disease and lung disorder revealed in new study

FRIDAY, May 27 (HealthDay News) -- People with rheumatoid arthritis are twice as likely as healthy people to have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a large new study finds.

The link between rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, and the breathing disorder was evident even when factors such as smoking, age, obesity and gender were controlled for, according to Israeli researchers. The study was to be presented Thursday at the European League Against Rheumatism annual conference in London.

"We know that similar changes in core physiological processes cause symptoms in RA and COPD, and we hope that the results of our study prompts new research into potential links between altered genetic and autoimmune processes in the two conditions," researcher Dr. Howard Amital of the Sheba Medical Centre, Israel said in a meeting news release.

Using data from Israel's largest health care provider, Clalit Health Services, the research team compared information on almost 16,000 RA patients over 20 years old with more than 15,000 healthy controls who were matched for age and gender. They found the incidence of COPD in RA patients was 8.9 percent compared with 4.4 percent for the controls. Lifestyle habits and disease risks, including income levels, were also included in their research.

Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease, is different from osteoarthritis, the common form of arthritis that typically develops with older age. RA causes pain, swelling and stiffness in joints, but can also affect other body parts, such as the mouth and lungs. The severe form can last a lifetime.

Research presented at meetings is considered preliminary until it is published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

To learn more about COPD, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Margaret Steele SOURCE: European League Against Rheumatism, news release, May 26, 2011

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