Widening Death Gap Haunts RA Patients
Over 50 Years, Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients See No Gain in Life Expectancy
WebMD News Archive
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Heart Disease continued...
Why do rheumatoid arthritis patients die sooner than others do? Rheumatoid
arthritis doesn't just affect the joints. Gabriel, a rheumatologist, says
people with the disease have system-wide immune dysfunction, with very high
levels of inflammation.
While the study does not prove this is so, Gabriel speculates that heart
disease in people with rheumatoid arthritis is different from heart disease in
"I think cardiovascular disease is an important part of what is going on
here," she says. "And it is likely that this may be a bit different
from the cardiovascular disease the rest of us develop. It may be that
interventions to prevent and treat cardiovascular disease may be relatively
less effective for people with rheumatoid arthritis, and that is why they are
not experiencing the survival gains the rest of us have."
Gabriel points out that patients in the current study were treated through
January 2007. If new treatments for rheumatoid arthritis are helping patients
live longer, this effect has not yet become apparent. She thinks it's a bad
idea to wait to see whether this happens.
"I would caution my colleagues not to assume things will get better, but
to try to see what is causing these differences in survival," Gabriel says.
"There are a lot of patients that could be helped by studies specifically
designed to improve survival in people with rheumatoid arthritis. I'm not
comfortable with just waiting another five years to see what happens."
Gabriel and colleagues report their findings in the November 2007 issue of
Arthritis & Rheumatism.