Rheumatoid arthritis patients who were severely obese experienced more rapidly progressing disability than those who were overweight, researchers suggest.
Unintentional weight loss was also associated with worsening disability possibly related to frailty, they add, noting that health providers should refer such patients to physical therapy, strength training, or other interventions to prevent disability.
In the study, published recently in Arthritis Care & Research, Joshua Baker, MD, MSCE, of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and his colleagues examined information on 23,323 patients with rheumatoid arthritis from the National Data Bank of the Rheumatic Diseases and 1697 from the Veterans Affairs RA registry.
Severe obesity was associated with more rapid progression of disability. The study also found that patients who lost weight tended to become disabled more quickly, especially in those who were already thin, explains a media release from Wiley.
“We believe that this is because when people get older and acquire illnesses, they tend to lose weight. Therefore, the important weight loss in this study is unintentional,” Baker says. “So, this study suggests that patients with rheumatoid arthritis and obesity would benefit from intentional weight loss through a comprehensive management strategy; however, when we see that someone is losing weight without trying, it’s probably a poor prognostic sign, especially if they are already thin.”
The findings are especially relevant when considering the rising rates of obesity in recent years, he adds.
“While patients and rheumatologists may be focused mostly on disease activity, we should also consider this common condition, which can contribute to problems that are usually attributed to the arthritis itself,” Baker states. “In addition, unintentional weight loss should alert us that the patient may be becoming frail and is at risk for developing new disability.”
[Source(s): Wiley, Science Daily]