Background: Stress response is considered to involve the activation of both the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis and the autonomic nervous system, along with its communication with the immune system. Because many rheumatic diseases are characterized by immune-mediated joint inflammation, stressful events might contribute to the aetiology, maintenance and exacerbation of rheumatic diseases.
Objectives: We aimed to examine whether real-life major stressful events lead to poor disease control among patients with Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). We addressed this question using real-world data from the PRIME registry.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional study conducted using data collected at the time of patient enrolment in the PRIME registry. The PRIME Registry is a large, independent, prospective, observational cohort initiated in October 2019 that comprises patients diagnosed with RA, SLE, PsA or AS by a rheumatologist, and is being actively followed up. IRB approval and informed consent was obtained. We assessed the registry data for RA patients. The clinical variables studied were gender, age, smoking habits, body mass index, education status, marital status, disease duration, comorbidities (using Charlson Comorbidity Index). Education status was stratified by whether participants completed secondary (high) school education. Evaluation of disease activity and severity was made as per internationally agreed definitions, such as: swollen joint counts (SJC), tender joint counts (TJC), deformed joint counts, and DAS-28. Major psychological trauma or stress was defined if the patient has experienced any of the following in the past year: a) major personal injury or illness; b) death/major illness of a close relative; c) marital separation/divorce; d) loss of job; e) major financial loss; f) mass casualty incident loss.
Results: The data of consecutive 507 RA patients (mean age 42.3±12.6 years, 73.6% female, disease duration of 80±22 months) was reviewed. Thirty-six percent of the cohort reported to have major psychological stress and trauma in the preceding one year. No statistical association of age, gender, and marital status was noted, but statistical association of low education status (p=0.042), longer disease duration (p=0.044), higher DAS-28 values (p<0.001) and other markers of RA disease activity (SJC, TJC, ESR, patient global health) was found. On multiple logistic regression analysis, a significant association of major psychological stress and trauma in the preceding one year was noted with active disease (DAS-28; OR 1.67, CI 1.17-2.4, p=0.005). Following variables were included in the full regression model, disease duration, gender, age, marital status, education status, and DAS-28 value (also used models with SJC, TJC, deformed joint counts, ESR, patient global health, but the results remained unchanged).
Conclusion: Major psychological stress and trauma in the preceding one year is associated with high disease activity among patients with RA. Therapies that focus on stress management may be important adjuncts to traditional pharmacotherapy in the treatment of inflammatory rheumatic diseases.
Disclosure of Interests: Muhammad Haroon Speakers bureau: Roche, Novartis, Grant/research support from: Abbvie, Pfizer, Sadia Asif: None declared, Shabnam Batool: None declared, Farzana Hashmi: None declared, Saadat Ullah: None declared, Arfa Ashraf: None declared, Hafiza Javeria Shaheen: None declared
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