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Diabetes and IBD Can Raise Your Risk for Rheumatoid Arthritis

The exact cause of Rheumatoid arthritis has escaped the diagnosis of the medical community for some time. However, the mayo clinic is possibly a step closer to the answer.

The Clinic recently published a study that examined 3,276 people. Of this group, 821 of the individuals suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.

Researchers were able to conclude that sufferers of type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and a history of blood clots were all more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis at some point in their life. Other risk factors for this type of arthritis include obesity, tobacco use, being a female, and previous use of antibiotics.

The link between diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis turned out to be the most profound. In fact, RA sufferers were 50 percent more likely to suffer from diabetes and diabetes patients were 20 percent more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis.

An additional finding of researchers is that RA sufferers experienced an increased risk of sleep apnea and heart disease.

Vanessa Kronzer is a clinician investigator of rheumatology working at the Mayo Clinic. Kronzer explains that the accumulation of comorbidities took place much faster in patients diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Kronzer went on to advise that conditions like epilepsy and autoimmune diseases may play a role in patients developing RA. Conversely, heart disease may to some extent be a result of rheumatoid arthritis. Presently, approximately half of the adult sufferers of diabetes in the United States also suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.

The Takeaway

The findings by Kronzer and her team could have profound implications for understanding the development of RA. It is possible the results of the study can lead to earlier diagnosis for people who suffer from the disease.

Study clinicians note that RA wreaks havoc on the lining of the joints and could possibly deliver similar damage to the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. It is also noted that a number of study participants were found to possess blood clots before their RA was detected.

Kronzer explained that a link between diseases like irritable bowel syndrome and type 1 diabetes with RA was clearly established. She says that patients with these conditions should be screened regularly for RA.

Kronzer also said the doctors of individuals already diagnosed should be at the ready to test for sleep apnea, blood clots and multiple types of cardiovascular disease.

While the link between diabetes and RA is clear for researchers to see they are still not sure why the two diseases seem to act in tandem at times. What is known at this time is that type 1 diabetes and RA both harm the body by attacking the autoimmune system.

The job of the immune system is to fight against foreign invaders in the body and protect it from germs and other disease-causing agents. There are times when the immune system gets its signals crossed and begins to attack healthy cells in the body. The name given to this action by the body is an auto-immune disease.

Rheumatoid arthritis attacks the cells in the joints while type 1 diabetes targets the pancreas. Research suggests that some people are born with multiple forms of auto-immune disease. Genetics is likely the culprit for this condition and science has been able to isolate a gene that is responsible for increasing the risk factors for diabetes and RA.

Another possible explanation for the connection between RA and diabetes is the fact that RA causes inflammation in the body. Inflammation can reduce the effectiveness of insulin at lowering the body's blood sugar if left unchecked and this could explain the high instances of type 2 diabetes experienced by rheumatoid arthritis patients,

Reaction From Rheumatoid Arthritis Sufferers

The study conducted by the Mayo Clinic caught the attention of more than just a few people who are affected by RA.

Reagan McComb is a student at the University of West Virginia who battles rheumatoid arthritis. McComb explains the story is interesting to her but it causes her to wonder which of her conditions was first and which was a contributing factor to the others.

McComb surmises that some of the medication she takes to manage her RA is responsible for some of the other health complications she experiences.

Eileen Miller is a Washington native that suffers from both type 2 diabetes as well as RA. Miller says she learned that she had diabetes before she began to experience symptoms of her arthritis.

Important Things to Know

More about the comorbidities that come along with rheumatoid arthritis can be seen at the website maintained by the Arthritis Foundation. Diabetes is one of these comorbidities. The foundation explains that individuals who have been diagnosed with diabetes are twice as likely as other people to suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.

Kronzer says more research is needed for the medical community to gain a better understanding of the history that exists between rheumatoid arthritis and its associated comorbidities.

The Mayo Clinic also maintains a DNA bank that will be used by researchers in an attempt to draw a genetic connection between rheumatoid arthritis and the other diseases that seem to occur along with RA.

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