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Originally published March 29 2009

Rheumatoid Arthritis in Women Skyrockets 50 Percent in Ten Years

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) After decreasing for 40 years, rates of rheumatoid arthritis among women have suddenly begun to skyrocket, according to a study conducted by researchers from the Mayo Clinic and presented the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology/Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals in San Francisco.

"The rapid change in incidence [in women] is suggestive of an environmental factor or factors," research Sherine Gabriel said.

Researchers used data from the Rochester Epidemiology Project, Gabriel said, "which contains essentially complete medical information on all residents of Olmsted County, Minn., from the time they were born or the date they moved to Olmsted County, until the time they die or the date they move away."

The incidence -- or rate of new cases -- of rheumatoid arthritis among women had been steadily decreasing from 1955 to 1994, when it reached 36 per 100,000. From 1995 to 2005, however, the incidence soared to 54 per 100,000.

The incidence among men held steady over the same time period, at approximately 29 per 100,000.

While prior research has suggested that the prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis had dropped to 1.3 million from the 1995 figure of 2.1 million, the current study found that the prevalence heads increased from 0.85 percent of the population to 0.95 percent. As the rate of new cases continues to grow, the researchers expect the prevalence to increase even further.

According to Gabriel, the researchers will now analyze the data based on "disease severity, in order to determine whether the increasing incidence reflects an added number of mild or of severe cases. We will also try to examine risk factors in order to generate hypotheses about what might be behind this observed change in incidence."

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammation of the joints caused when the body's immune system destroys its own tissue. It is different than osteoarthritis, which is caused by external damage to joints and connective tissue.

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