Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis not only interfere with daily activities. Rheumatoid arthritis patients also have an increased risk for atrial fibrillation, a condition in which an irregular heart rhythm. That condition is a condition strongly associated with stroke.
In a new study involving more than 4 million adults in Denmark, patients with rheumatoid arthritis were 40 percent more likely to have atrial fibrillation than the general population and 30 percent more likely to suffer a stroke.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder or inflammation that usually affects the joints of the hands and feet. Signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include, swelling and stiffness in the joints, and fatigue.
“Patients with rheumatoid arthritis are known to have a higher risk of heart attack. But research into the impact of inflammatory joint disease in stroke have been inconsistent. In our study, rheumatoid arthritis is associated with an increased incidence of atrial fibrillation and stroke. If inflammatory conditions that encourage such relationships , then drugs that control inflammation may also reduce the risk of stroke, “said researcher Jesper Lindhardsen, MD, of Copenhagen University Hospital Gentofte as reported by WebMD.
People who have had atrial fibrillation, the condition is characterized by irregular heartbeats and heart failure to pump blood effectively. People with atrial fibrillation more likely to suffer a stroke than people without the condition.
In the new study, published in the journal BMJ, Lindhardsen and colleagues examined the risk of atrial fibrillation and stroke in adults in Denmark were observed for 5 years. About two-thirds of the approximately 18,000 rheumatoid arthritis patients who were identified in the study were women, and the average age of patients at the time of diagnosis was 59 years old.
Increased risk of atrial fibrillation and stroke among patients of rheumatoid arthritis is most pronounced in patients with age less than 50 years. In such patients, rheumatoid arthritis is associated with about 3 fold increased risk for both conditions.
The researchers concluded that, in rheumatoid arthritis patients should be screened for the condition of atrial fibrillation.
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