Rheumatoid Arthritis: Killer Disease

from the European Congress of Rheumatology, EULAR, in Copenhagen

Medical history was made yesterday with official declaration of a new cardiovascular risk factor: rheumatoid arthritis, along with two other rheumatologic disorders, ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis.

“In our view, rheumatoid arthritis [RA], ankylosing spondylitis [AS], and psoriatic arthritis [PsA] should be seen as new cardiovascular risk factors,” said Dr. Michael T. Nurmohamed, speaking on behalf of a task force of the European League Against Rheumatism.

Dr. Michael T. Nurmohamed/photo Mitchel Zoler

Dr. Michael T. Nurmohamed/photo Mitchel Zoler

There was more. “Very importantly, the risk is comparable to diabetes,” said Dr. Nurmohamed, a rheumatologist at the Free University Medical Center in Amsterdam.

Tallying a person’s risk for cardiovascular death by the European SCORE method, the value should be increased by 50% if the person has RA , AS, or PsA, Dr. Nurmohamed said. Framingham risk scores should be boosted the same way.

During the past decade or so, diabetes has changed from being seen as a disease of mostly failing kidneys, eyes, and limbs to a disease of damaged hearts and blood vessels. Will the same transformation now happen for RA? Until now, RA and other rheumatologic diseases weren’t generally life threatening. Now it seems they are. 

—Mitchel Zoler (on Twitter @mitchelzoler)

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Filed under Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, Family Medicine, Genomic medicine, Geriatric Medicine, Hospital and Critical Care Medicine, Internal Medicine, Practice Trends, Primary care, Rheumatology

2 responses to “Rheumatoid Arthritis: Killer Disease

  1. This could be a very good boost to the publicity surrounding RA and may well encourage many more people to treat it much more seriously than they have in the past.

  2. Thank you for your relative post. This dieses did indeed, “kill” my mother. RA was listed as her cause of death. The disease eroded her cervical collar, causing irreversible spine damage, (spinal cord syndrome). By the time she was diagnosed correctly, surgery was not a survivable option. She was a wonderful mother and my best friend.

    Eighty-six percent of those with RA have the disease in their neck. My goal is to promote early cervical spine x-rays and to save at least one person’s life through my book, “Death by Rheumatoid Arthritis”. Proceeds will be donated to The Arthritis Foundation.

    God bless you for your work.

    Carla Jones

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