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Depression and Rheumatoid Arthritis

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Disability, depression and rheumatoid arthritis are a vicious circle, and the effects are not just mental and emotional. Depression can be physically devastating too. According to a new study conducted by Alan Rathbun, Ph.D., and colleagues at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, depression can make RA remission more difficult and can lead to slower healing in RA patients.

RA patients with and without depressive symptoms were evaluated over a period of two years. Patients who reported symptoms of depression were slower to show any improvement in their joint pain and in measurable disease activity. Patients who did not appear depressed had a better overall rate of RA improvement.

The study also found that patients whose disease had shown up more recently showed much slower decreases in disease activity than the rest of the group who’d had RA for a longer period of time. According to Rathbun, “Collectively, these data indicated that a prior history of depressive symptoms could affect how patients interpret and perceive their condition, or alternatively, that depression has an impact on the experience of musculoskeletal pain.”

Dr. David Borenstein, a clinical professor of medicine at the George Washington University Medical Center, explains how the depression cycle can begin: “Diagnosis can result in depression as part of the realization of the potential difficulties of a chronic disease. The depression itself can be disabling even if the changes of rheumatoid arthritis are mild.”

Nonetheless, he says, there’s hope. “The expectation, with current therapies available, is that individuals with RA will not experience significant disability from their illness with early, effective treatment,” he said. “With effective treatment, individuals can regain control of their lives that helps break the hold of depression.”

As Borenstein suggests, a patient’s best bet is to work with their doctor to treat depression early on. This could help prevent further disability from RA and improve quality of life.

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This web site is run by an Arthritis Specialist based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. On this site you will find news about the latest in arthritis, information about research results in the field, tips and information and diet and exercise, and much more.

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