Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients Have Higher Risk of Breaking Bones

Christine Miller Health Guide
  • Many people with RA develop osteoporosis. Studies have also shown that people with RA have an increased risk of hip fractures. A new study published in the October 2006 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism sought to determine whether patients with RA also have a higher risk of developing fractures in other bones and to estimate their long-term fracture risk.

    This was a British study, involving health data gathered for over 30,000 patients ages 40 and older with RA. Follow-up time varied, but averaged about 7.5 years. During follow-up, 2,460 experience fractures. About 71% of the participants were female and over 30% were older than 70 years of age.
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    The researchers found that patients with RA did have an increased risk of fracture related to osteoporosis, especially in the hip and spine, but less of a fracture risk for radius/ulna fractures than control. Patients were also more likely to experience fractures of the humerous and tibia/fibula. The study also found that the increased risk is caused by both disease activity and use of glucocorticoids or steroids such as Cortisol and Prednisone, which are known to negatively affect bone density. Patients who have RA 10 years or more are three times more likely than people without RA to fracture a hip. Patients who have a low Body Mass Index (BMI) also were at higher risk experiencing a hip fracture.

    The scientists noted several limitations to the study including that the collected data was from 1987 to 2002, so the number of patients using disease-modifying drugs was low, which may contribute to the results of this study. They recommended that the data be validated with more current data since populations, utilization of new medications and other circumstances are constantly changing.

    This study, like others before it, demonstrates that patients with RA, especially those who have had it for several years and/or take steroids should talk to their doctors about getting regular bone density checks and methods of promoting bone health and strength such as taking calcium supplements regularly and keeping active with weight bearing exercises such as walking and lifting light weights.
Published On: October 05, 2006