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May 29, 2012

Young Women Suffering from Arthritis at a Greater Risk of Broken Bones

According to a recent study, women with rheumatoid arthritis are more prone to bone breakage when compared to those not suffering from the disease. While it is known that rheumatoid arthritis increases the risk of fractures among older individuals, the study shows that the risk prevails among women below the age of 50 as well. To prevent this, it is important for young women to take preventive measures. These include not smoking, consuming adequate amounts of vitamin D and calcium, and being physically active.
The study

The study led by Shreyasee Amin, an MD and associate professor of rheumatology in Minneapolis at the Mayo Clinic, showed that women with the condition faced double the risk of fractures compared to women without it.

According to Joanne Jordan, MD, MPH and director of Thurston Arthritis Research Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the study is very important. She opines that when young women are diagnosed with the condition, they are pre occupied with controlling the symptoms and fractures are often neglected. She further points out that steroids, although an effective treatment, increase the risk of fractures.

Around 1.5 million people in America suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. People in their 20's and some even younger are seen to develop the condition, although it is typically associated with middle aged and older individuals. Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when your immune system attacks the body's own tissues and causes inflammation. This leads to pain, stiffness and permanent joint damage. 

The findings of the study were presented at the annual gathering of the American College of Rheumatology. The medical records of 1,171 people, who were diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis between 1995 and 2007, were analyzed in the course of the study. About one-third of these were men. Their fracture rates were then matched to a similar number of women and men not suffering from the condition. 308 women and 110 men with arthritis were below 50 years of age. All of them were observed for about 9 years on an average.

The findings

  • Women suffering from arthritis were at a 63 percent higher risk of getting a fracture than women not suffering from the condition.
  • Women above the age of 50 with arthritis were at 43 percent higher risk of fractures than those not suffering from the condition.
  • Men suffering from the condition were at a 40 percent greater risk of fracture than men not suffering from it.
  • Men above the age of 50 were at 34 percent more risk of fracture than men without arthritis.
What puts younger women with arthritis at a higher risk of getting fractures?

This could be attributed to the use of steroids or even the condition itself. Amin states that the inflammation caused by arthritis affects bone cells and leads to bone loss. It could also be linked to the reduced physical activity in women with arthritis and the increased tendency to fall. But none of these factors can be singled out. Most probably all the factors play some contributing role.

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