Just a year after a patient is diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, the risk of a heart attack goes up by 60 percent, reveals a new study.
Swedish researchers followed 7,469 patients diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) to determine the risk of ischaemic heart disease, with particular reference to myocardial infarction (heart attack).
“Our findings emphasise the importance of monitoring a patient”s heart risk from the moment they are diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, as the risk rises rapidly in the first few years” said lead author Marie Holmqvist from the Karolinska Institutet.
The risk of an acute heart attack rose by 60 per cent one to four years after diagnosis.
“Our study confirms the increased risk of heart disease and heart attacks that patients with RA face. However it also adds three important observations to previous research,” said Marie Holmqvist.
“Our research underlines the importance of clinicians monitoring patients diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis for an increased risk of heart problems, in particular heart attacks,” concluded Holmqvist.
The findings were published in the Journal of Internal Medicine.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a disease tht causes chronic inflammation of the joints and may affect many tissues and organs. It can also produce diffuse inflammation in the lungs, pericardium, pleura, sclera, and nodular lesions under the skin. The exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, but it is autoimmunity is known to play a pivotal role in its progression.
Rheumatoid Arthritis typically infects the joints, where two bones meet to allow movement of body parts. The affected areas become swollen, warm, painful and stiff in the morning upon waking or following extended inactivity.
Sometimes this can lead to the destruction of the cartilage, bone, and ligaments, causing deformity of the joints. Damage can occur early in the disease and can be progressive. Studies have shown that the progressive damage to the joints does not necessarily correlate with the degree of pain, stiffness, or swelling present in the joints.
When Rheumatoid Arthritis is clinically suspected, immunological studies are required to test for the presence of rheumatoid factor, which is a specific antibody to RA. A negative result does not necessarily rule out rheumatoid arthritis and about 15% of patients get negative results while still having the disease.
Unfortunately, this test is not as specific as it could be, so a new serological test has been developed that tests for the presence of anti-citrullinated protein antibodies. While this test is about as accurate as the Rheumatoid Factor test, a positive result is extremely rare if Rheumatoid Arthritis is not present.