More Info About the Link Between Osteoporosis and RA

What Is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones become less dense and more likely to fracture. Fractures from osteoporosis can result in significant pain and disability. It is a major health threat for an estimated 44 million Americans, 68 percent of whom are women.
 
 
  • Thinness or small frame
  • A family history of the disease
  • Being postmenopausal or having had early menopause
  • Abnormal absence of menstrual periods (amenorrhea)
  • Prolonged use of certain medications, such as glucocorticoids
  • Low calcium intake
  • Physical inactivity
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol intake.

 

Osteoporosis is a silent disease that can often be prevented. However, if it goes undetected, it can progress for many years without symptoms until a fracture occurs (see Symptoms of Osteoporosis).
 

Is There a Link?

Studies have found an increased risk of bone loss and fracture in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. People with rheumatoid arthritis are at an increased risk of osteoporosis for many reasons. To begin with, the glucocorticoid medications often prescribed for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis can trigger significant bone loss. In addition, pain and loss of joint function caused by the disease can result in inactivity, further increasing osteoporosis risk.
 
Studies also show that bone loss in rheumatoid arthritis may occur as a direct result of the disease. The bone loss is most pronounced in areas immediately surrounding the affected joints. Of concern is the fact that women, a group already at increased risk of osteoporosis, are two to three times more likely than men to have rheumatoid arthritis as well.
 
(Click Rheumatoid Arthritis Medication for more information on these medicines used for treating rheumatoid arthritis.)
 
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