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Study Says Rheumatoid Arthritis Linked To Blood Clots: Overall Risk Is Small But Present

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A new study has given additional credence to something many researchers have long suspected: rheumatoid arthritis patients have a higher risk of blood clots in the first ten years after their diagnosis.

While the Swedish study, which was published in the Oct. 3 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, does not prove that rheumatoid arthritis directly increases the likelihood of blood clots, it does point strongly to a link between rheumatoid arthritis and blood clots, indicating that some factor related to rheumatoid arthritis, such as inflammation or treatment, may cause a higher risk of blood clots.

Distinct from osteoarthritis, the form of arthritis linked with gradual deterioration through aging, the onset of rheumatoid arthritis typically takes place between the ages of 25 and 55. Rheumatoid arthritis produces an inflammation in the joints, causing the patient to experience swelling, stiffness, and pain, as well as lowered joint function.

While previous studies have pointed to a possible connection between rheumatoid arthritis and deep vein thrombosis, in this study researchers aimed to gain a better understanding of this added risk, and to determine whether or not the risk rises when patients are hospitalized. To accomplish this, the researchers studied more than 45,000 Swedes that were rheumatoid arthritis patients, as well as people without the disease, between 1997 and 2010.

The researchers found that of the approximately 38,000 patients that visited the doctor most frequently due to their rheumatoid arthritis, 2.2 percent had diagnosed blood clots, a figure double that of those that did not have the condition. But in both patient groups, there was a higher incidence of blood clots in the first year after hospitalization.

The study was praised by Chief of Clinical Sciences in Rheumatology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Dr. Daniel Solomon, who said that it added to the body of knowledge on vascular problems.

Source: US News Health

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