Arthritis

Updated 09 December 2015

Lifestyle factors linked to arthritis

Screening for smoking, obesity and diabetes may help identify those at greater risk for rheumatoid arthritis.

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Smoking, obesity and diabetes are all associated with an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, a new study suggests.

The researchers said their findings could be used to create a simple screening tool to identify people at higher risk for rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in the joints, and can also affect other body organs.

How the study was done

The team at the Arthritis Research UK Epidemiology Unit examined data from more than 25 000 people, aged 40 to 79, who were followed over a number of years. When they compared 184 people who developed rheumatoid arthritis with people who did not, the researchers found that smoking, obesity and diabetes all were linked to an increased risk.

The investigators also discovered that drinking small amounts of alcohol and being in a higher social class were associated with a reduced risk of developing the painful joint disease.

Women who had more than two children and breastfed for a shorter amount of time also were found to have a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, the study authors said.

Developing the rheumatoid arthritis

"The factors we studied give us vital clues to the early events in the process that ends in someone developing rheumatoid arthritis. They are also simple to ask about and can be used as part of a prevention program," study leader Ian Bruce, a professor of rheumatology at the University of Manchester and a senior investigator with the National Institute for Health Research in the United Kingdom, said in a university news release.

The study was published in the March 17 issue of the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

Although the study found an association between certain lifestyle factors and development of rheumatoid arthritis in the study population, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about rheumatoid arthritis.

Read more:

What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis

 

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Arthritis expert

Professor Asgar Ali Kalla completed his MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 1975 at the University of Cape Town and his FRCP in 2003 in London. Professor Ali Kalla is the Isaac Albow Chair of Rheumatology at the University of Cape Town and also the Head of Division of Rheumatology at Groote Schuur Hospital. He has participated in a number of clinical trials for rheumatology and is active in community outreach. Prof Ali Kalla is an expert in Arthritis for Health24.

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