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Release: Immediate

UI researchers studying rheumatoid arthritis in older women

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa College of Medicine researchers hope to learn more about rheumatoid arthritis in older women, a chronic form of joint inflammation that occurs more commonly in women than in men.

With the help of a three-year, $225,000 grant from the Arthritis Foundation, UI researchers, led by Drs. Kenneth Saag, assistant professor of internal medicine, and James Cerhan, assistant professor of preventive medicine and environmental health, will confirm cases of elderly-onset (occurring after age 60) rheumatoid arthritis among participants in the Iowa Women's Health Study, an ongoing population-based study of more than 41,000 older women.

"Many individuals with elderly-onset rheumatoid arthritis have overlapping features with another type of inflammation called polymyalgia rheumatica," Saag says. "In women confirmed to have elderly-onset rheumatoid arthritis, we will examine risk factors that may be associated with the development of this condition with and without polymyalgia rheumatica." These factors would include rural residence, diet, prior blood transfusions, the use of estrogens, obesity and cigarette smoking.

Other studies have not addressed important risk factors for the development of arthritis in older women, and it is unknown whether these factors differ between arthritis and polymyalgia rheumatica, Saag notes. "Our study of older women will provide unique data in the area of rheumatoid arthritis and may provide insight into the causes of this disease," he says. "This could lead to new prevention strategies."