Is RA fatal?

Can anyone tell me what the mortality rate for RA is? Sorry I know its a bit grim to ask, but I want to know.

I came across a study which shocked me this week. It sais that the mortality rates had not gone up since the 60`s. It also said that just under 3o% of pople had died 10 years after diagnosis. It seemed to link this to the severity oif the disease and possible cardiovascular problems?

I am just learning at the moment and want to understand fully whats happened to me so I can decide how I want to try to approach life in the future.

Sorry if it is depressing to bring it up but i thought maybe more experienced ( patient experts? may have got some evidence base for this question or no where i could find out the answer.


15 Replies

  • Hi, found this on wikipedia, hope it helps.


    MortalityEstimates of the life-shortening effect of RA vary; most sources cite a lifespan reduction of 5 to 10 years. According to the UK's National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, "Young age at onset, long disease duration, the concurrent presence of other health problems (called co-morbidity), and characteristics of severe RA—such as poor functional ability or overall health status, a lot of joint damage on x-rays, the need for hospitalisation or involvement of organs other than the joints—have been shown to associate with higher mortality".[56] Positive responses to treatment may indicate a better prognosis. A 2005 study by the Mayo Clinic noted that RA sufferers suffer a doubled risk of heart disease,[57] independent of other risk factors such as diabetes, alcohol abuse, and elevated cholesterol, blood pressure and body mass index. The mechanism by which RA causes this increased risk remains unknown; the presence of chronic inflammation has been proposed as a contributing factor.[58]

  • After being diagnosed with RA and inbetween appointments I read up about RA as I was running into it all blind...I'd read it could affect your insides and was so worried (feeling like death you're bound to be) that I asked my Rheumatologist if I'd be ok, that I'd not go and have a heart attack when I got home! He chuckled at me and told me not to worry but it is a worry, especially with a young family! Many other factors would have to play a part though and I'm hoping that they'd be able to spot problems before they really start using all the blood tests and assesments that they do each visit.

    This link is from NRAS website - I don't trust wikipedia! (Sorry Andy)

    Try to worry too much but if you are don't be afraid to ask at your next appointment!! Even if they chuckle do at you! x

  • RA isn’t fatal – that is it doesn’t, of itself, kill you.

    However the evidence suggests that people with RA, on average die between 5 and 10 years earlier than they would have done if they did not have RA.

    You might ask, how can they possibly know that? It goes like this - researchers compare a group of people with RA, and an otherwise similar group of people who don’t have RA. They have found that the group of people with RA, on average die sooner (at a younger age). It is not so much the RA in itself that causes earlier death, but diseases/conditions that go along with RA (this is called co-morbidity).

    An incredibly small number of people develop serious complications involving the heart, lungs and blood vessels that result in death at a comparatively young age. This tends to bring the average age of death down quite a lot.

    More generally, people with RA are somewhat more likely to have heart attacks and strokes than people who don’t have RA.

    Another problem for people who have RA is that they often take drugs that increase the risk of heart attack etc – for example, most anti-inflammatories increase the risk of heart attack. Some the other drugs we take are quite poisonous and may stop our kidneys and liver working effectively, particularly towards then end of our lives.

    That's the bad news. But is important to recognize a number of things –

    1)the apparent shortening of life is statistical – some people may die very early some, some may even live longer than they would have done without RA

    2)Keeping active and eating well can improve the health of your heart and blood vessels

    3)My Nurse Consultant advises only taking anti-inflammatories when you definitely need them (and not just out of habit)

    4)These studies were inevitably done at least a few years ago – things are probably improving – treatment is better now, reducing on average the length of time people have active, severe disease (and how severe your RA is, and how long it has been severe makes a difference)

    5)Worrying about this won’t help! – not least because worry seems to make heart and blood vessel conditions worse

    6)The use of cholesterol lowering drugs may well help – I am on a trial which is testing this idea

    7)There is a lot of research going on into the problem of co-morbidity (diseases that go along with RA) – I’m also on a trial about this

    I hope this neither sounds too dire; nor too optimistic about how things are changing.

    Certainly, it seems to be well worth doing what you can to lead as healthy and active a life as your RA will allow.

    I am now within 10 years of my allotted span of “three score years and ten” – however I stay as active as I can, and aside from a minor over-indulgence in cake, I eat well, so I am expecting to reach a century without too much difficulty.

  • Hi Tone

    you and I have just about said the same thing. I'm going to email the lady that is preparing the booklet to see if she will add some advise on to the blog, if not then I'm sure NRAS will be more than happy. Get out into the sunshine and get those joints all warmed up, we may suffer tomorrow but it will be worth it. I've just realised I must be the same ageas you well my Dad's 87 and he still dances 3 times a week, gardens and model makes he is fit and healthy and I intend living as long as him if not older.

    tricia x

  • There is a booklet called heart Disease in RA. this is only in its early stages and there is a trial called Trace RA. this is looking at how a statin drug may benefit someone with RA. I'm going to give you a piece from this booklet.

    A person with RA may have more risk factors ie don't exercise put on weight, so may get high BP. some anti- inflamitory tablets may also contribute to High BP Prolonged or high doses of steroids may also cause diabetes.

    RA it self also makes people more likely to develop heart disease. RA is due to excessive inflammation and this causes painful swollen joints, This inflamation however does not just affect the joints but also affects blood vessels lowers the amount of good cholesterol and makes the blood more prone to clot. These reasons are why people with RA may be more prone to heart disease.

    As I say this booklet was sent to me when I agreed to go on the trial, so I take a pill (another one)nightly which may or may not be a statin. if you are worried I would ask to have your cholesterol tested and also glucose and blood pressure when you are at your GP's next. my personal view is eat as healthily as you can, try to do a little exercise, and be positive.


  • Hello Sparkle. Not a bit grim, it's reality. Something most people want to know about. I think the comments above are all so brilliant and goes to show the more we know about the disease, the treatment and effects, the longer we shall probably go on living.

    Take care Julie x

  • Thankyou everyone you are all fabulous !!!!!!!!! xxx ( who needs a consultant ! we have NRAS !!!!! )

  • Sparkle,

    I've spoken to the office at the Trial place and asked if she would write a piece for us. when this blog was started I'm sure I saw that they would welcome comments from Drs and healthworkers, as well as old RA lot.

    I'm emailing her the link. fingers crossed if not too painful.

    Best wishes


  • well you are all! brilliant,!! off sick health worker here..., am worried bout heart attact. stroke risk it is a statistical prob ,,my mum has arthrtitis but is 69 and has a dodgy heart valve which is being monitiored, I picked this up as she had persisitant cought at night no not asthma!! ,and told her to go to gp, she has yearly monitoring, but she eats healthy, weighy less than her fat steroid daughter(me!) and does tai chi and short walks when knees allow!!, my dad who has arthritis in spine (as do I) IS ALSO 69!.he has had a mini stroke , no lasting symptoms , but is on warfarin but did smoke and is v over weight, had GIVEN up smoking...., I believe may have started again....!!!, he cant exercise can only walk short distances cos of his back pain, I think we have to do the best can in terms of diet and exercise and look after our selves

    alison xxx

  • One of the key things in this debate is that much of the research was done BEFORE the advent of today's fantastic drugs (whatever you make thing of them they do the job!). Anyone diagnosed in the last ten years or so has a very good prognosis and the chance of reduced life expectancy due to RA and associated problems is small. Those of us diagnosed earlier may still have some reduced life expectancy due to poor treatment options at the outset.

    Live for now, forget the disease as much as you are able .... tomorrow you might get run over by a bus!! There's nowt you can do, enjoy what you have and stop worrying guys!

    Great piece Tone, all very relevant comments, thanks for the input :)

    Lyn x

  • Not much hope for us then Lyn! lol!

    But like you say,live for today no point in worrying who knows what tomorrow will bring.

    mand xx

  • Hi Tricia

    I hope that the invitation from the trial lot is accepted. I personally like to gather info from a variety of perspectives before I make my mind up.

    I found the wikipedia/Andys comments thought provoking. Thankyou to both and also for the leads re trials etc. So Im glad I raised this. What is noticeable to me from our replies is the different psychological responses/strategies to RA. I wonder if this links to on how long people have been managing the condition. Im sure there is no right way to cope though as Im a great believer in the fact we are all individuals and go through our own process of adaption to unwanted changes in life.

    I do genuinely feel a bit more of the seize the day mentality now, which is no bad thing as it might release from sweating the small stuff so much!?

    I also dont mind going through some negative painful emotions if it is part of me coming to terms with something and developing effective coping strategies.

    Thanks Guys and Gals ( nice to have the men too)

  • Hi, I think we all have these fears and have read up on the 5/10 years life expectancy, but as said just statistical!

    I have to say my Rheumatologist put me on chole med as I have famial high LDL. Cholestral 4.8 but almost 3 of that the bad stuff (LDL), she not taking chances - had checked recently & LDL now 2,

    God, I think I'm becoming an armchair doctor! Probably someone reading this is saying 'thats rubbish' Oh well thats my understanding.

  • hey sprarkle going to take up sky diving and bungee jumping... If diagnosed at 44/45 gives me only ten years doent need to worry bout my pension , wont get to 60!!, come one weres the round the world ticket.. god this is so morbid.. plaease can we only have cheerful blogs.... were is that tall building... have a really upset newbie member contact me re the mortalitiy blog....

  • Well, perhaps 'really upset newbie member' should have read what I wrote very carefully!

    "One of the key things in this debate is that much of the research was done BEFORE the advent of today's fantastic drugs (whatever you make thing of them they do the job!). Anyone diagnosed in the last ten years or so has a very good prognosis and the chance of reduced life expectancy due to RA and associated problems is small."

    The article on the NRAS website about this subject was written in 2001 ... things have moved forward dramatically, the future's bright ... the future's er!

    Life with RA is a rollercoaster and whilst I try to remain cheerful, much for the benefit of those around me, sometimes the grim and morbid is a part of that life and issues such as this will be raised from time to time. Fact of RA life.

    If anyone has issues I'm happy to discuss through personal message.

    Lyn x

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