Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic disease that causes pain, stiffness, swelling, and limitation in the motion and function of multiple joints. Apart from joints, RA can also cause inflammation in other organs as well.
While people with RA have long been known to be susceptible to cardiovascular disease, this is the first study to compare this risk with the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
In the study, researchers measured the frequency of fatal and nonfatal cardiovascular disease in 335 RA patients followed for three years, as compared to 1,852 people in the general population.
The researchers observed that cardiovascular disease occurred in nine percent of patients with RA and among 4.3 percent of the general population- i.e. the incidence of 3.30 people per 100 people per year for those with RA, and 1.51 people per 100 people per year for those in the general population.
Patients with type 2 diabetes and non-diabetic patients with RA have similar risk ratios for developing cardiovascular disease (2.02 and 2.22, respectively), as compared the general population,
The researchers concluded that the risk of cardiovascular disease is not only high in people with RA as compared to the general population, but it equals that of people with type 2 diabetes.
"This investigation reveals that the cardiovascular risk in RA equals that of type 2 diabetes, a well established cardiovascular risk factor for which cardiovascular risk management is mandatory. Hence, cardiovascular risk management is also necessary for RA," explained Michael T. Nurmohamed, MD, PhD; rheumatologist and epidemiologist; VU University Medical Center.
The study was presented at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Scientific Meeting in San Francisco, California.