According to a study published by MedicineNet, an online, healthcare media publishing company, more than 40 million adults and over 250,000 children in America are struggling with the same condition. It is also worth noting that arthritis has become a global epidemic, impacting the lives of over 350 million individuals worldwide. It is also worth noting that the two most common forms of the disease include osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Further complicating matters, antibiotics, medication used to fight bacteria-related infections, have recently been linked to the disease. In this article, we will take a closer look at the correlation between this class of medications and the increased risk for developing the disease synonymous with inflammation of the joints.
Osteoarthritis Versus Rheumatoid Arthritis
Before detailing how antibiotics are linked to arthritis, we should first go over the key differences between the two most common forms of the disease. The osteoarthritis variant of the disease is characterized by the wearing down of joints over time, whereas rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, which causes the immune system to attack various joints within the body.
While osteoarthritis is the more common form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the one linked to antibiotic use, according to several studies. On average, these medications can increase the risk of developing RA by 60 percent.
Understanding the Relationship Between Antibiotics and Arthritis
According to a study published by Clinical Practice Datalink Research, a research service supporting public health and clinical studies, there is a definitive nexus between antibiotic use and the susceptibility of developing arthritis-related joint inflammation, especially in those taking the medication for an upper respiratory infection.
Researchers and scientists involved in the 10-year study followed roughly 90,000 study participants who did not have the disease. By the end of the study, nearly 22,000 of these participants who took antibiotics for bacteria-related infections were formally diagnosed with RA. It is also worth noting that those who took antibiotics for an upper respiratory infection were the ones primarily diagnosed with the disease.
Understanding the Percentages
Although the study published by Clinical Practice Datalink Research pointed to an average 60 percent chance of developing RA as a result of taking antibiotics, the percentage can be higher or lower based on several factors. To help put this into context, let’s take an even closer look at the study.
The researchers and scientists involved in the study believe that symbiotic and pathogenic microorganisms, which are also known as gut microbiota, play a pivotal role in the likelihood of developing RA. Similarly, the length of time an individual has been taking antibiotics is also a factor. All things being equal, those taking antibiotics for shorter periods only had a 40 percent chance of developing RA.
Conversely, those taking antibiotics long-term had a 66 percent chance of developing the disease. The study further revealed that there is also a link between how recently an individual started taking antibiotics and the onset of RA. To further put this into context, if you have taken antibiotics within the past one to two years, you have a substantially higher chance of developing RA, typically about 80 percent. Conversely, if you have taken antibiotics within the past five to ten years, you only have a 48 percent chance of developing the inflammation-causing disease.
In all cases, however, researchers and scientists believe that the combination of gut microbiota and antibiotics is to blame. They are also hopeful, however, that these findings will lead to improved treatment modalities to minimize the risk of RA while individuals are taking antibiotic medications, especially for upper respiratory infections.
In summation, to minimize your chances of developing RA, it would be a good idea to speak with your physician about alternative treatments if you’re struggling with a bacteria-related infection. Similarly, if you have already been diagnosed with RA and have a bacteria-related infection, taking antibiotics may worsen the condition, according to the study published by Clinical Practice Datalink Research. Therefore, it would be a good idea to discuss alternative treatments with your physician in this regard as well.