JUN 20, 2018 5:47 AM PDT

How Rheumatoid Arthritis Drugs Affect Mental Health

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease where the immune system of an affected individual attacks its own body, in this case the joints.

Mental health disorders is increasingly present in patients with RA with about 17% suffering from major depression and roughly 50% of RA patients exhibit significant depressive symptoms. Poor mental health outcomes are related to pain and fatigue which was shown to influence response to treatment otpions when therapy starts.

Many drug therapeutics used in the treatment of RA may actually affect mental health by improving pain and stiffness and targeting the inflammatory processes associated with arthritis and depression. Until recently, no research has examined the impact of mental health on RA individuals who are tapering their RA therapy.

Now, a recent review article of examined studies demonstrate how depending on rheumatoid arthritis therapies alone may not actually improve a patients' mental health. The purpose of the review article was to determine if mental health predicted the likelihood of an RA flare, which might motivate more personalized treatment options in the future.

The research findings were published in Arthritis & Rheumatology and conclude that after considering all possible aspects, worse mental health score was associated with an RA flare with RA patients undergoing treatment tapering. The findings show that providing dedicated mental health care is crucial in helping arthritis patients with depression and other mental health conditions.

"This review summarizes the findings from over 70 clinical trials to examine the association between different rheumatoid arthritis treatments and mental health outcomes," said lead author Dr. Faith Matcham, from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London.

"Our findings suggest that otherwise effective pharmacotherapy alone is unlikely to have an impact on mental health outcomes for the majority of rheumatoid arthritis patients. Optimal mental health outcomes may be achieved through providing integrated psychological support alongside routine care."

About the Author
  • Nouran earned her BS and MS in Biology at IUPUI and currently shares her love of science by teaching. She enjoys writing on various topics as well including science & medicine, global health, and conservation biology. She hopes through her writing she can make science more engaging and communicable to the general public.
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