Why Patients With RA Should Be Concerned About Osteoporosis

rheumatoid arthritis Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) not only affects the joints but it can also lead to long-term problems in bone health, such as osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a disease which causes bones to become brittle, porous (less dense) and weakened, leaving them susceptible to fractures.  Studies have found that people diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis are at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis.

The reasons why the two are linked are numerous.  Complications of RA, including systemic inflammation, the use of glucocorticoids or corticosteroids and loss of mobility can all further the development of osteoporosis.

People with RA who have developed osteoporosis may not know they have the disease because it often goes undetected until the bones fracture. However, there are several lifestyle changes they can apply to reduce their risk, such as:

  • Eating a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D
  • Taking calcium and vitamin D supplements
  • Getting adequate sunlight to receive vitamin D
  • Exercise (weight bearing exercise)
  • Reducing alcohol consumption
  • Quit smoking
  • Taking recommended bone density tests

It is recommended that you speak with a doctor before making changes as each person’s case is unique. Your doctor may also prescribe medications to treat osteoporosis.

To schedule an appointment with a rheumatologist at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, please call 718- 206


-6742 or 718-206-7001. The Division of Rheumatology at Jamaica Hospital provides consultations for patients who develop rheumatological disorders, such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. There is a twice-monthly arthritis clinic and bone mineral density testing for diagnosing osteoporosis.


Smoking and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Smoking is a bad habit for anyone, but for those with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), it is a habit that is especially dangerous.

ThinkstockPhotos-78770898Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease that causes pain, stiffness, swelling, and loss of function in the joints. It occurs when your immune system, the system that protects your body from outside harm, mistakenly starts attacking healthy tissue. If not managed properly, over time, RA can cause joint damage—and can even result in permanent joint destruction.

Unlike the more common osteoarthritis, RA is not associated with factors such as aging, obesity, or injury, but lifestyle choices, such as smoking, not only increase your odds of developing the disease but also make the condition worse for those who already have it. In addition, smoking combined with RA can lead to even greater problems, such as heart disease.

Recent studies indicate that tobacco is highly associated with and the probable cause of RA in many instances and is a leading factor when the condition worsens. According to one study, Smokers with a specific gene makeup are 50% more likely to develop RA than those who do not smoke, and those who get it, usually develop a more serious form of the disease.

Smoking also affects how well those who develop RA respond to treatments. In general, smokers are less likely to achieve remission and have worse outcomes because tobacco reduces the effectiveness of medications used to treat swelling and reduce pain for rheumatoid arthritis patients.

Having rheumatoid arthritis, in and of itself, it’s a risk factor for developing heart disease. In fact, over the last ten years, the leading cause of death for people with RA is cardiovascular disease. Smoking, combined with RA raises your risk of developing heart disease to a much higher level.

Quitting smoking can go a long way toward rheumatoid arthritis prevention. If you’re at risk for developing RA or if you already have it, you don’t want to light up, and if you’re already smoking, you want to quit.

May is arthritis awareness month. If you or a loved one either has or is at risk of developing arthritis, please speak to your doctor immediately about treatment options. To make an appointment at Jamaica Hospitals’ Ambulatory Care Center, please call 718-206-7001.