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Consultant discovers alcohol cuts risk of arthritis

05 Aug 2010 14:10:55

 Pioneering research by Rotherham Hospital Consultant Rheumatologist, Dr James Maxwell has found that alcohol consumption can reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Dr James MaxwellSevere cases of rheumatoid arthritis can be disabling but this study shows alcohol can have an anti-inflammatory effect on joints and may play a role in helping sufferers with the pain.

Consultant Rheumatologist and Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer at Sheffield University Dr James Maxwell, said: “There is some evidence to show that alcohol suppresses the activity of the immune system, in fact the report shows that drinking alcohol can lower the risk of rheumatoid arthritis by up to 40 per cent.”

Around 1% of adults in the UK have rheumatoid arthritis, a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the joints, causing inflammation, pain and swelling. 873 arthritis patients and 1,004 people without the illness took part in the study, with alcohol intake recorded as part of a questionnaire. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis underwent blood tests, X-rays and specific joint examinations to record the severity of their arthritis.

Dr Maxwell said: “Once someone has developed rheumatoid arthritis it’s possible that the anti-inflammatory and mild painkilling effects of alcohol may play a role in reducing the severity of symptoms. In the patients we worked with there was less damage to joints, blood tests showed lower levels of inflammation, and there was less joint pain, swelling and disability.

We are not suggesting that people go out and drink vast amounts of alcohol but we have shown that
even small amounts of alcohol can help some people with this condition.

“We don’t yet know why alcohol can affect the severity of the condition so more research is needed to test different factors which may also play a part. It’s also possible that certain alcoholic drinks can have a different impact on the condition so we need to look into this further.”

Find out more about Rheumatology services and staff.


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