National PTSD Awareness Day: Post-traumatic stress disorder may cause rheumatoid arthritis in women

Not all memories are sweet. Some memories leave behind terrible impact on the life of the sufferer, which can lead to a permanent scar on his/her mind. Traumatic events such as commonplace misfortunes, natural disasters, being trapped in a war zone, witnessing bloodshed or death of a loved one can be few reasons for distress which can affect a person’s life. These traumatic situations can give rise to a mental disability called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The National Center for PTSD (NCPTSD) is observing June as the PTSD Awareness Month to educate Americans about the existence of PTSD and its possible treatment options. In fact, for a better awareness about PTSD, the United States Senate has designated June 27 as the National PTSD Awareness Day.

Previous studies have linked PTSD with risks of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in males, especially those who were involved in warfare or witnessed massive destruction and chaos in a war zone. Now, a study by the Harvard Medical School in Boston and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research in February 2016, tried to understand the impact of PTSD on women and evaluate any possible association of this disorder with RA.

PTSD symptoms in women and RA

In the study, titled “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Risk for Incident Rheumatoid Arthritis,” the researchers attempted to evaluate the link between increasing signs of PTSD and RA among women and understand the role of smoking in exacerbating the condition.

The scientists examined 54,224 respondents who had participated in the Nurses’ Health Study II, during 1989-2011. In the study, which ran over a period of 22 years, the participants were required to provide the necessary details in the Brief Trauma Questionnaire and were screened for possible PTSD symptoms. They were then grouped in accordance with trauma exposure and other signs of PTSD. The participants who experienced RA symptoms prior to the study and those who refused to respond were excluded from the study. The researchers eventually analyzed only 239 respondents with increasing symptoms of RA from 1989 to 2011.

After adjusting the details of the respondents, based on age, race and socio-economic status, the scientists observed that the women who witnessed four or more symptoms of PTSD had a hazard ratio of 1.76 for acquiring RA, when contrasted with those who showed no signs of PTSD.

Thus, there was an increase in the risk for developing RA with an aggravation in the symptoms of trauma/PTSD. Moreover, the hazard ratio remained high when smoking habits of the participants were also considered. However, the scientists found that the hazard ratio remained unchanged for women who smoked before being afflicted with PTSD.

Elaborating on the findings of the study, the authors said, “We found that women with probable PTSD were at an increased risk for developing RA. This association was not substantially altered by the inclusion of smoking in a multivariable model.” The findings indicated that there is a viable association between increase in the number of PTSD symptoms and the risk of developing RA in women. The findings held true for both the seropositive and seronegative RA subgroups.

Road to recovery

For those dealing with stress or PTSD, daily life can be extremely debilitating. Stress can lead to bad decision-making power. However, it can be treated, and a vast majority of people can be helped with specialized professional care.

If you or your loved one has been suffering from PTSD or any other mental illness, you may get in touch with experts from the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline for more information about one of the best mental illness treatment centers available. You may call at our 24/7 helpline number (855) 653-8178 or chat online for further expert advice on various mental health treatment facilities available in your vicinity.