MAY 09, 2018 6:25 AM PDT

How Obesity and Weight Loss Both Spell Trouble for Arthritis Patients

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a crippling disease which progresses and can result in total disability. In a recent study by a team at the Perelman School of Medicine, investigators looked at obesity as well as unintentional weight loss and found that both are a complicating factor in RA.

Those patients who were severely obese experienced a more rapid progression of their disease, according to the results, but weight loss was also an issue. The study was published recently in the journal Arthritis Care and Research.  

Dr. Joshua Baker, MD, MSCE at is a professor at Perelman and led the work. There was a tremendous amount of data pulled from the National Databank of Rheumatic Diseases, as well from the Veteran’s Administration’s RA registry. The obesity factor was complex when compared to rates of RA. Those who were severely obese when they were diagnosed with arthritis had a more rapid deterioration of their illness. They became fully disabled sooner and had more severe RA pain and symptoms. Obesity in the patients in the study did not come from their arthritis. While some patients gain weight when their RA hits a certain point in severity because they are no longer able to be as active, the increase progression of disability was not seen in patients who were merely overweight, but rather only in patients with morbid obesity. 

Being thin was a problem too. It’s not uncommon in many diseases for patients to lose weight initially, because of how their illness impacts the function of organs, the immune system, and the brain. When patients lose weight without even trying, it’s most likely a sign of their disease becoming worse. Dr. Baker explained, "We believe that this is because when people get older and acquire illnesses, they tend to lose weight. Therefore, the important weight loss in this study is unintentional. So, this study suggests that patients with rheumatoid arthritis and obesity would benefit from intentional weight loss through a comprehensive management strategy; however, when we see that someone is losing weight without trying, it's probably a poor prognostic sign, especially if they are already thin."

The study is critical because rates of obesity are on the rise. Very often doctors must treat patients with RA, who are also obese. It’s a common enough condition that making health care providers aware of the connection between RA and weight is what the researchers recommend. Dr. Baker believes that the results show the necessity of going beyond just the disease and looking for other factors that could indicate a worsening progression of symptoms. 

While it’s well-known that obesity raises a patient’s risk for many health problems, sometimes doctors may not notice that unintentional weight loss is also a sign that something isn’t right. Often RA patients will get to the point of full disability that could have been prevented if their providers took their weight loss as an indicator of disease progression, as opposed to just a minor side effect that happens in some illnesses. Check out the video to learn more about the connection between weight and rheumatoid arthritis.

Sources: Arthritis Care and Research, Penn UPI

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
MAR 25, 2021
Cardiology
Improved Triage Method to Get STEMI Patients from Door to Treatment
MAR 25, 2021
Improved Triage Method to Get STEMI Patients from Door to Treatment
A heart attack is an incredibly sudden and dangerous cardiac event that requires quick action for a successful recovery. ...
MAR 23, 2021
Microbiology
Pregnant Moms Easily Pass On COVID-19 Antibodies Through Placenta
MAR 23, 2021
Pregnant Moms Easily Pass On COVID-19 Antibodies Through Placenta
Recent work has shown that SARS-CoV-2 antibodies that are carried by a pregnant woman can cross the placenta and reach t ...
MAR 29, 2021
Microbiology
High-Fiber Diets Can Alter the Microbiome Quickly & Significantly
MAR 29, 2021
High-Fiber Diets Can Alter the Microbiome Quickly & Significantly
We know that the microbes in the gut have a significant effect on human biology, and researchers are starting to learn m ...
APR 04, 2021
Microbiology
A Nanoparticle-Based Universal Flu Vaccine Moves Closer to Use
APR 04, 2021
A Nanoparticle-Based Universal Flu Vaccine Moves Closer to Use
There are many different influenza viruses, which cause from 290,000 to 650,000 deaths every year. That range depends on ...
APR 06, 2021
Health & Medicine
Is There an Upper Limit to the Benefits of Exercise?
APR 06, 2021
Is There an Upper Limit to the Benefits of Exercise?
By now, I am sure that you all know that one of the best ways to improve your health is by running, jogging, walking, or ...
APR 06, 2021
Cardiology
In 2020, Deaths in the US Were Over 20% Higher Than Typical Years
APR 06, 2021
In 2020, Deaths in the US Were Over 20% Higher Than Typical Years
Researchers have begun to analyze the impact of the pandemic, and their work has shown that long COVID-19 surges in the ...
Loading Comments...