Association Between Swallowing Issues and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Long term swallowing issues may be associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), according to a study recently published in Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology. Researchers from the University of Utah and Brigham Young University recognized a lack of data regarding the association between RA and dysphagia and aimed to address this gap in information in their descriptive epidemiology study.

The team used a sample of 100 adult patients, 84 or whom being women, with a mean age 61.1 years and mean rheumatoid disease duration of 19.6 years. Patients underwent in depth interviews, having their general health, difficulty swallowing, and quality of life analyzed. The researchers found that 41% of the patients reported having swallowing issues, many of whom claiming to have daily problems for over 4 years. In addition, the severity of RA was positively correlated with dysphagia.

Dry mouth was the most commonly reported symptom at 52%, with solid food dysphagia symptoms being prevalent. Risk factors associated with swallowing disorders included physical inactivity, esophageal reflux, and voice and thyroid dysfunction. The quality of life was found to be significantly lower in patients with RA and dysphagia versus those without. Only 46% of patients actively pursued medical assistance for their dysphagia, with 74% of these patients reporting symptom improvement.

Co-author and rheumatologist Karla L. Miller, MD claims that these findings are consistent with her observations in the clinical setting. The authors conclude that “while RA adversely affects [quality of life], the addition of a swallowing disorder clearly adds to the mental and physical burden placed on the individual,” and that the origins of swallowing disorders in patients with RA “need to be explored.”

Source: Rheumatology AdvisorAnnals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology