Does stress affect the joints? Daily stressors, stress vulnerability, immune and HPA axis activity, and short-term disease and symptom fluctuations in rheumatoid arthritis
SourceAnnals of the Rheumatic Diseases, 73, 9, (2014), pp. 1683-1688
Article / Letter to editor
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Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases
SubjectRadboudumc 0: Other Research RIHS: Radboud Institute for Health Sciences; Radboudumc 17: Women's cancers RIHS: Radboud Institute for Health Sciences; Radboudumc 18: Healthcare improvement science RIHS: Radboud Institute for Health Sciences; Radboudumc 5: Inflammatory diseases RIHS: Radboud Institute for Health Sciences
OBJECTIVES: Both stressors and stress vulnerability factors together with immune and hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity components have been considered to contribute to disease fluctuations of chronic inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The aim of the present study was to investigate whether daily stressors and worrying as stress vulnerability factor as well as immune and HPA axis activity markers predict short-term disease activity and symptom fluctuations in patients with RA. METHODS: In a prospective design, daily stressors, worrying, HPA axis (cortisol) and immune system (interleukin (IL)-1beta, IL-6, IL-8, interferon (IFN)-gamma, tumour necrosis factor alpha) markers, clinical and self-reported disease activity (disease activity score in 28 joints, RA disease activity index), and physical symptoms of pain and fatigue were monitored monthly during 6 months in 80 RA patients. RESULTS: Multilevel modelling indicated that daily stressors predicted increased fatigue in the next month and that worrying predicted increased self-reported disease activity, swollen joint count and pain in the next month. In addition, specific cytokines of IL-1beta and IFN-gamma predicted increased fatigue 1 month later. Overall, relationships remained relatively unchanged after controlling for medication use, disease duration and demographic variables. No evidence was found for immune and HPA axis activity markers as mediators of the stress-disease relationship. CONCLUSIONS: Daily stressors and the stress-vulnerability factor worrying predict indicators of the short-term course of RA disease activity and fatigue and pain, while specific cytokines predict short-term fluctuations of fatigue. These stress-related variables and immune markers seem to affect different aspects of disease activity or symptom fluctuations independently in RA.
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