The Arthritis Newsletter

Spring 2018

COPD and Arthritis: The Importance of Inflammation Management

By Katie LeBlanc PhD, Holistic Nutritionist, APAB member


Dr. Diane Lacaille, Senior Research Scientist at Arthritis Research Canada, and her research team have recently learned that individuals with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in British Columbia are more likely than others to develop COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The common thread between RA and COPD is inflammation. Similar inflammatory markers between the two diseases have important implications for those living with RA.


The study followed a total of 24,625 RA patients living in British Columbia who were diagnosed between 1996 and 2006.  They were compared to a control population of 25,396 individuals who represent the general population. They then tracked the incidence of hospitalization related to COPD. COPD includes a variety of diseases that impact the ability to exhale with ease, which can lead to difficulty breathing. Such diseases include bronchitis, asthma, and emphysema, to name a few.  The researchers adjusted for potential confounding factors leading to COPD-related hospitalization, including age, sex, medication use, frequency of physician visits and prior hospitalization, among others. They also modeled for smoking, one of the largest risk factors associated with COPD. Controlling for these factors, the researchers determined that the RA population had a 47% increased risk of COPD-related hospitalization when first diagnosed, compared to the general population. It was concluded that this is likely due to the role of inflammation in both disease categories.


So, what exactly does this mean for RA patients? This research sheds light on the importance of reducing inflammation quickly in RA disease management. Inflammation is being linked to an increasing number of issues. Given this, it’s very important to seek medical attention early when inflammation is present.


Besides seeking medical attention, we can also decrease our risks by paying attention to important lifestyle risk factors. Number one is smoking, especially in relation to COPD. Both first and second hand smoke exposure pose the greatest risk, and is something that we can control. Reducing your exposure to smoke and environmental pollutants are active steps that we can take on a daily basis. We can also take an active role by notifying our physicians when symptoms associated with COPD arise. This may result in a pulmonary function test to rule out the presence of COPD or related conditions. Identifying COPD early can reduce the chances of complications.


Inflammation is often a reality when living with RA and other types of inflammatory chronic disease. While remission, or complete eradication of inflammation is ideal, it’s also important to be aware of related risks, such as the development of COPD. Being aware of this risk increases our ability to take action at the first sign of symptoms.


For more information, follow this link to the research study: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/acr.23410/abstract


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