In The News: January 2010
Recovery Rate High for Chronic Back-Pain Sufferers
More than 35 percent of patients will recover from chronic low-back pain within nine months, and four out of 10 (41 percent) will do so within a year, according to a recent study in the British Medical Journal. The study, the first of its kind, brings into question the common view that recovery from an episode of chronic back pain is unlikely. Researchers followed 400 patients whose back pain lasted for more than 90 days, assessing pain and disability levels at nine and 12 months. The results revealed that a reasonable number of participants had fully recovered within a year of first developing their pain. The findings are important, say the study’s authors, because they demonstrate that the rate of recovery within a year of first developing chronic low-back pain is higher than previously reported and the prognosis is not uniformly poor for sufferers of chronic back pain.
Anti-TNF Meds Linked to Skin Cancer in RA Patients
Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who are treated with anti-tumor necrosis factor (TNF) medications are at increased risk of developing nonmelanoma skin cancer, specifically basal and squamous cell cancers, compared with patients treated with traditional disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). The research, presented during a meeting of the American College of Rheumatology, was based on an eight-year study of 16,829 RA patients that found the incidence of nonmelanoma skin cancer was 25.9 percent in patients receiving anti-TNF medications and 19.6 percent in those receiving nonbiologic DMARDs. Though researchers considered the 34 percent increased risk modest, they suggested RA patients should nevertheless be monitored closely for suspicious skin lesions.
Water, Skim Milk May Prevent Gout Attacks
Here’s a new reason to drink water: It may help prevent gout attacks. New Zealand researchers, studying 535 people who had suffered a gout attack within the past year, asked subjects about what they ate and drank in the 24 hours preceding their attack. Later, when they were gout-free, they were asked the same questions. Results showed that the more water the subjects drank, the lower their risk of a gout attack—specifically, drinking five to eight glasses of water within 24 hours was associated with a 40 percent lower risk of an attack, compared with drinking none or one glass of water the previous day. Researchers concluded that dehydration may be an important trigger for gout attacks. Since previous studies have shown that people who drink a lot of milk have a lower risk of developing gout, similar research was conducted on 16 volunteers drinking soy or skim milk. Results showed that after drinking soy milk, levels of uric acid rose 10 percent over a three-hour period, while drinking skim milk led to a 10 percent drop in uric acid levels. Researchers credited a substance in skim milk called orotic acid that promotes uric acid removal by the kidneys.
Gum Disease Raises Arthritis Risk
Periodontitis, or gum disease, may raise your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a new study shows. Researchers at the University of Minnesota found that compared to people with mild or no periodontitis, people with moderate to severe gum disease are nearly three times more like to develop RA. The study involved 6,616 people who underwent four health checkups between 1987 and 1998; each of the subjects also had a dental exam during the same period. While it’s been known that there is an association between gum disease and RA, this newest study is the first to show a causal relationship between RA and periodontitis. Although it isn’t clear why gum disease leads to RA, researchers say that evidence suggests the mechanism of destruction of connective tissues in both gum disease and RA is similar.