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01.12.2018 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

Arthritis Research & Therapy 1/2018

Does psychological stress in patients with clinically suspect arthralgia associate with subclinical inflammation and progression to inflammatory arthritis?

Zeitschrift:
Arthritis Research & Therapy > Ausgabe 1/2018
Autoren:
Aleid C. Boer, Robin M. ten Brinck, Andrea W. M. Evers, Annette H. M. van der Helm-van Mil
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s13075-018-1587-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

Abstract

Background

Within established rheumatoid arthritis (RA), stress can have pro-inflammatory effects by activating the immune system via the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the autonomic nervous system. It is unknown if stress levels also promote inflammation during RA development. We studied whether the psychological stress response was increased in clinically suspect arthralgia (CSA) and if this associated with inflammation at presentation with arthralgia and with progression to clinical arthritis.

Methods

In 241 CSA patients, psychological stress was measured by the Mental Health Inventory (MHI-5) and the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-10) at first presentation and during follow-up. Systemic inflammation was measured by C-reactive protein (CRP) and joint inflammation by 1.5 T-MRI of wrist, MCP, and MTP joints.

Results

At baseline, 12% (24/197) of CSA patients had a high psychological stress response according to the MHI-5. This was not different for patients presenting with or without an elevated CRP, with or without subclinical MRI-detected inflammation and for patients who did or did not develop arthritis. Similar findings were obtained with the PSS-10. When developing clinical arthritis, the percentage of patients with ‘high psychological stress’ increased to 31% (p = 0.025); during the first year of treatment this decreased to 8% (p = 0.020). ‘High psychological stress’ in non-progressors remained infrequent over time (range 7–13%). Stress was associated with fatigue (p = 0.003) and wellbeing (p < 0.001).

Conclusions

Psychological stress was not increased in the phase of arthralgia, raised at the time of diagnoses and decreased thereafter. The lack of an association with inflammation in arthralgia and this temporal relationship, argue against psychological stress having a significant contribution to progression from CSA to inflammatory arthritis.
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