Lung disease COPD may mean higher arthritis risk

In a new study, researchers found that asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are each linked to increased risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis.

The research was conducted by a team at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Inflamed airways may contribute to the development of rheumatoid arthritis, but the role of chronic airway diseases in the development of rheumatoid arthritis is unclear.

In this study, the team tested 205,153 women. They found 15,148 women had asthma, 3,573 had COPD, and 1,060 women who later developed rheumatoid arthritis over a median follow-up of approximately 24 years.

Asthma was linked to a 53% higher risk of rheumatoid arthritis, and COPD was linked to an 89% higher risk, after adjusting for factors including smoking.

The association was particularly strong between COPD and the seropositive form of rheumatoid arthritis, which is characterized by elevated blood levels of antibodies thought to cause arthritis-related symptoms.

These findings support the view that chronic airway mucosal inflammation contributes to the development of rheumatoid arthritis.

The team says it is possible that inflamed airways may be a site of antibody production prior to the clinical onset of joint inflammation.

Patients with asthma or COPD may be susceptible to rheumatoid arthritis, and clinicians should consider monitoring them for arthritis-related signs and symptoms.

The lead author of the study is Julia A. Ford, MD from Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

The study is published in Arthritis & Rheumatology.

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