Sixty-three percent of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) also suffer from psychiatric disorders. The majority of these (87 percent) occur in the depressive spectrum.

The findings emanate from a new study presented today at the Annual Congress of the European League Against Rheumatism in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Interestingly, over half (52 percent) of the patients studied indicated that they had experienced stress events before the onset of their RA.

The study also revealed a number of other interesting findings about the emotional burden of RA:

  • Cognitive dysfunction was diagnosed in 23 percent of patients, with 16 percent of this attributed to depression
  • A third suffered from sleep disorders
  • Those with depression also exhibited more severe RA (measured by X-ray), greater functional insufficiency and pain, as well as having received less aggressive treatment than patients without depression. (No significant differences in age, duration of illness, gender or standardized scores were noted between the two groups)
  • Significantly, cognitive impairments were found more often (p=0.02) in patients older than 50 years (39 percent vs. 9 percent)
  • The age of the first prednisone intake was significantly higher (p<0.05) in patients with depression compared to those without (48 vs. 30 years)

Dr Tatiana Lisitsyna from the State Institute of Rheumatology RAMS, Russian Federation, who conducted the study, said: “Psychiatric disorders are a very common comorbidity for people with RA, and they tend to be stress-related and associated with disease activity and chronic pain.

“Evaluating and addressing the mental health of those with RA should be a regular feature of rheumatology practice to improve quality of life and reduce the potentially distressing psychological burden of RA.”

Source: European League Against Rheumatism