By Wendy Haaf
If you’re among the 2.3% of Canadians over the age of 60 living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), make sure it’s being treated appropriately and pay extra attention to chesty coughs and a feeling of breathlessness if you should wake at night. The results of a Canadian study suggest that RA may nearly double your risk for developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, an irreversible lung condition that includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis).
A study led by Dr. Diane Lacaille of Arthritis Research Canada and the University of British Columbia compared information on almost 25,000 people diagnosed with RA with information on a similar number of controls. Researchers found that hospitalizations for COPD were 47% higher among those with RA than among those without it. The results were published in Arthritis Care & Research, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology.
It’s thought that the inflammation caused by RA may affect the lungs as well as the joints and that starting disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) as soon as possible after diagnosis might reduce the likelihood for COPD; however, fewer than half of Canadians with RA are being treated with DMARDs.