People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) may be twice as likely as healthy people to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to a recent study presented at the European League Against Rheumatism annual conference in London.
The study, which was conducted by researchers out of Israel, used data from the nation’s largest healthcare provider to compare and contrast information on nearly 16,000 RA patients above the age of 20. Researchers compared these patients’ information with more than 15,000 healthy control patients who were matched based on age and gender.
Findings of the study indicate that the link between RA and COPD was evident even when factors such as smoking, age, obesity and gender were controlled. Further, 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 the research.
“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,” said researcher Dr. Howard Amital of the Sheba Medical Centre, Israel, in a meeting news release.
An autoimmune disease, RA is different from osteoarthritis, the 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 of RA can last a lifetime.
While the findings of this study are strong, research presented at meetings is considered preliminary until it is published in a peer-reviewed journal.