The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), like joint swelling and pain, are much worse when pollution increases, says a study conducted by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
Researchers studied 500 people with rheumatoid arthritis who lived in New Delhi, India for more than ten years. They found a strong correlation between the worsening of joint swelling and pain during the months of November and December, which are peak pollution months in the city – measuring a suspended particle matter (SPM) of 2.5 increases in the atmosphere.
“We collected data on air quality from the Indian Meteorological Department in New Delhi for the past few years and then tracked patients undergoing treatment for rheumatoid arthritis here at AIIMS,” said Professor Uma Kumar, AIIMS’ Head of Department and Professor of Rheumatology Medicine.
“Patients showed worsening of symptoms like joint pain and swelling when the air pollutants increased,” Professor Kumar added.
The data were released as part of World Arthritis Day, which was October 12.
About 1.5 million Americans live with rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disorder characterized by swelling, joint pain and joint deformity. It normally affects joints of the hands, fingers, wrists, feet, ankles and toes. Nearly three times as many women have RA as compared to men.
RA is treated with a number of different medicines depending on the severity of the pain and advancement of the disease. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often used to help ease arthritis pain and inflammation. Corticosteroids are used to help stop the advancement of the disease, but carry severe side effects if used for long durations of time. Other biologics, like methotrexate, hydroxycholorquine, sulfasalazine, leflunomide, cyclophosphamide and azathioprine, are used to suppress the immune system and slow the progress of the disease.
Now, it seems that breathing cleaner air is another way to help lessen the symptoms of RA.