A new study was published in Arthritis Care & Research regarding the link between rheumatoid arthritis and increased risk of developing COPD. The article suggests that greater vigilance is required to monitor the increased risk of COPD in those with chronic inflammatory conditions.

In the study, 24,625 patients with rheumatoid arthritis and 25,396 controls diagnosed between 1996 and 2006 were analyzed. The team was led by Diane Lacaille of Arthritis Research Canada and the University of British Columbia. They compared the information on matched individuals in the general population. These researchers demonstrated the link between COPD and rheumatoid arthritis.

The researchers found that the patients with rheumatoid arthritis were at higher risk of being hospitalized by COPD than the normal individuals. After considering the potential confounding factors, the researchers found that the incidence of COPD hospitalization was greater in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (47%) than the controls. There was a significantly increased risk observed when the modeling for smoking with varying COPD definitions was also considered.

"These findings are novel because it has only recently been recognized that inflammation plays a role in the development of COPD, and clinicians treating people with rheumatoid arthritis are not aware that their patients are at increased risk of developing COPD," said Dr. Lacaille. "Our results emphasize the need to control inflammation, and in fact to aim for complete eradication of inflammation through effective treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.”

The clinicians and the individuals with rheumatoid arthritis have to be aware of the early symptoms of COPD, added Dr. Lacaille. Thus, appropriate tests can be directed for early diagnosis of COPD. The onset of symptoms as well as effective treatments for COPD can be initiated prior irreversible damage to the lungs occurs. The long-term outcomes for patients and reduce the costs of COPD. The study also points to the need to address COPD risk factors (smoking) in individuals living with rheumatoid arthritis.