Infections in rheumatoid arthritis patients—study finds way to pinpoint risk

September 5, 2012

Rheumatoid arthritis alone is painful and disabling, but it also puts patients at higher risk of death. The greater susceptibility to infections that accompanies the autoimmune disorder is one reason. Assessing the danger of infection a particular patient faces so it can be addressed can prove challenging for physicians. A Mayo Clinic study finds that a risk score can be developed to predict a patient's chances of having serious infections. The score uses information about how rheumatoid arthritis is affecting a patient, plus factors including age, corticosteroid use and the presence of other illnesses.

The findings are published online in the journal & Rheumatism.

Using the National Institutes of Health-funded Rochester Epidemiology Project, researchers studied medical records of 584 rheumatoid arthritis patients diagnosed between 1955 and 1994 and followed up on until January 2000. Of those, 252, or nearly half, had more than one serious infection requiring hospitalization and/or intravenous antibiotic; those 252 collectively racked up 646 infections.

The Mayo team developed an infection risk score based on those and other rheumatoid arthritis patients they studied. Factors in the calculation include age; previous serious infections; corticosteroid use; a low white blood cell count; elevated results in a blood test used to detect signs of inflammation, called an erythrocyte sedimentation rate; signs of rheumatoid arthritis outside joints; and the presence of other serious conditions such as heart disease, heart failure, diabetes, lung disease, vascular disease and alcoholism. They confirmed the usefulness of the risk score in a second group of patients with rheumatoid arthritis from the same population.

"Using a in this way can alert physicians that their patient is at high risk for infection and needs more frequent follow-ups, measures for infection prevention and possible changes in treatments," says senior author Eric Matteson, M.D., chair of the Division of Rheumatology at Mayo Clinic.

"Rheumatoid arthritis patients are at higher risk of infection, and that risk is clearly not just because of the arthritis drugs."

More research is needed to determine the level of infection risk at which patients get the most benefit from medications to prevent infection and how infection risk might affect use of a category of drugs called disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, or DMARDs, such as biologics, the study says.

Explore further: Standard heart disease risk tools underrate danger in rheumatoid arthritis

Related Stories

Standard heart disease risk tools underrate danger in rheumatoid arthritis

May 21, 2012
Heart disease risk assessment tools commonly used by physicians often underestimate the cardiovascular disease danger faced by rheumatoid arthritis patients, a Mayo Clinic study has found. Inflammation plays a key role in ...

Young women with rheumatoid arthritis at more risk for broken bones

November 6, 2011
Women under 50 with rheumatoid arthritis are at greater risk of breaking bones than women without the condition, according to a Mayo Clinic study being presented at the American College of Rheumatology annual scientific ...

Infection risk up for seniors with rheumatoid arthritis

August 7, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Elderly adults with rheumatoid arthritis have a considerable risk of serious infection, with antirheumatic drug use increasing the risk, according to a study published online July 25 in Arthritis Care & Research.

Lower GI problems plague many with rheumatoid arthritis

April 3, 2012
Add lower gastrointestinal (GI) problems such as ulcers, bleeding and perforations to the list of serious complications facing many rheumatoid arthritis patients. They are at greater risk for GI problems and gastrointestinal-related ...

Obesity epidemic fueling rise in rheumatoid arthritis among women

April 25, 2012
Obesity and the painful autoimmune disorder rheumatoid arthritis are each becoming more common, raising a logical question: Could one have something to do with the other? For women, it appears there is a link, Mayo Clinic ...

Ultrasounds spot heart disease early in rheumatoid arthritis patients

June 6, 2012
Special echocardiograms show promise for early detection of a potentially deadly complication in rheumatoid arthritis: heart disease, Mayo Clinic research shows. The findings were being presented at The European League Against ...

Recommended for you

Prototype equipment can detect rheumatoid arthritis

September 28, 2017
According to a first clinical study published in the scientific journal Photoacoustics, the University of Twente and various European partners have designed a device that shows the difference between healthy fingers and arthritic ...

Improving the recognition of anxiety and depression in rheumatoid arthritis

August 28, 2017
A study conducted by Keele University shows that patients with rheumatoid arthritis who are also suffering with anxiety or depression may avoid talking to their GP about their mental health symptoms.

How you think about your arthritis makes a difference

August 24, 2017
(HealthDay)—How well you cope with knee arthritis depends a lot on your mental outlook, a new study suggests.

Treating arthritis with algae

August 23, 2017
Researchers at ETH Zurich, Empa and the Norwegian research institute SINTEF are pursuing a new approach to treating arthritis. This is based on a polysaccharide, a long-chain sugar molecule, originating from brown algae. ...

Study shows prevalence of knee osteoarthritis has doubled since World War II

August 14, 2017
The average American today is twice as likely to be diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis than in the years before World War II, Harvard scientists say, but that increase can't be blamed on the reasons most might think.

Researchers find arthritis drug could treat blood cancer patients

August 3, 2017
Blood cancer sufferers could be treated with a simple arthritis drug, scientists at the University of Sheffield have discovered.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

MyPerfectBones_com
not rated yet Sep 10, 2012
Feed and nourish bones, joints and articular cartilage, and reduce pain with all natural supplements like My Perfect Joints (google it...)

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.