Low-dose steroids in rheumatoid arthritis do not cause weight gain or high blood pressure.

Low-dose steroids in rheumatoid arthritis do not cause weight gain or high blood pressure.

Low-Dose Glucocorticoids: A Promising Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Medicine Organizer

Researchers have made an exciting discovery in the field of rheumatoid arthritis treatment. According to a study conducted by Charite – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the use of low-dose glucocorticoids does not cause substantial weight gain or high blood pressure in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. This finding is significant because it addresses the concerns many people with the condition have about taking steroids.

Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease affecting approximately 18 million people worldwide, occurs when the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues and joints. The result is painful inflammation and swelling in various areas of the body. Although there is currently no cure, treatments can help manage the symptoms and prevent further damage to the joints and affected areas. These treatments include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), biologic treatments, and steroids.

Steroids, including glucocorticoids, are commonly prescribed to alleviate the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. However, concerns over potential side effects such as weight gain, fatigue, mental health issues, and high blood pressure have led many to be cautious about their use.

The recent study from Charite – Universitätsmedizin Berlin focused on low-dose glucocorticoids as a potential treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. Glucocorticoids, which work with the body’s immune system to reduce inflammation, can be administered naturally by the adrenal gland or synthetically in cases of autoimmune diseases, allergies, and asthma. Common glucocorticoid drugs include cortisone, methylprednisolone, prednisone, and dexamethasone.

To investigate the effects of low-dose glucocorticoids on patients with rheumatoid arthritis, the researchers analyzed data from five randomized controlled trials involving 1,112 participants from 12 European countries. The two-year interventions revealed that participants receiving low-dose glucocorticoids gained only about 2 pounds more in body weight compared to those receiving a placebo. Furthermore, there was no significant difference in blood pressure between the two groups.

Dr. Medhat Mikhael, a pain management specialist and medical director of the non-operative program at the Spine Health Center at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center, expressed his positive view of the study. Dr. Mikhael emphasized the importance of dispelling the misconceptions surrounding the side effects of steroids. He commended the study for providing encouraging data, suggesting that the average weight gain of only 2 pounds over two years is minimal and reassuring. Additionally, he highlighted the study’s significance, as it included over 1,000 patients from different European countries, further strengthening the validity of the results.

Dr. David R. Karp, chief of the Rheumatic Diseases Division at UT Southwestern Medical Center, also weighed in on the study, stating that while there are pros and cons to this approach, it is reassuring to see that the effects of low-dose glucocorticoids on weight and blood pressure were minimal. He emphasized the importance of determining the lowest effective dose for each patient and considering alternative drugs if possible to minimize potential side effects.

Moving forward, further research is needed to expand on these findings. Replicating the study in more diverse populations, including individuals from different ethnic backgrounds, will provide a more comprehensive understanding of the effects of low-dose glucocorticoids. Additionally, long-term studies are necessary to assess the potential side effects of low-dose prednisone, including osteoporosis, infection risk, diabetes, and eye disease. It would also be valuable to compare low-dose glucocorticoids to other rheumatoid arthritis therapies, such as methotrexate or Plaquenil, to determine their effectiveness, disease progression prevention, and long-term side effects.

This study opens up exciting avenues for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. The use of low-dose glucocorticoids offers a promising solution for managing symptoms without significant weight gain or blood pressure issues. As further research continues to shed light on this topic, individuals with rheumatoid arthritis can be hopeful about future treatment possibilities and enhanced quality of life.