OBESITY aggravates the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and makes sufferers more likely to become disabled, a new study has found.
Over 400,000 people in the UK have rheumatoid arthritis – that’s one percent of the population.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition where your immune system attacks the lining of your joints, causing inflammation, debilitating swelling, pain and stiffness.
But it doesn’t just affect the joints. It can have a negative impact on a person’s entire body, including organs such as the heart, lungs and eyes, according to the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society.
It differs from the more common osteoarthritis where cartilage wears down over time, causing wear and tear on the joints.
A new study has found that obese people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis are more likely to become disabled than fellow sufferers who maintain a healthy weight.
The research, from the University of Pennsylvania, looked at over 25,000 patients with rheumatoid arthritis over 15 years.
Most of them were overweight or obese before they joined the study, and those who were severely obese were more likely to report some disability to start with.
It found that the level a person’s disability intensified was related to their level of obesity.
Their worsening disability “was not explained by worse disease activity,” lead study author Dr Joshua Baker said. “This suggests that obesity causes disability in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and provides yet another reason for patients to try to take off a few pounds.”
The results found that people with rheumatoid arthritis would have more mobility and a better quality of life if they lost weight – even if it wasn’t enough for them to return to a healthy BMI and they still remained obese.
“I would say to my patients that they should aim for a slow, progressive weight loss, associated with increased physical activity, rather than aiming for unrealistic aims such as reaching normal weight,” Dr Axel Finckh told Reuters.