PTSD Related Conditions PTSD and Rheumatoid Arthritis By Matthew Tull, PhD Matthew Tull, PhD Twitter Matthew Tull, PhD is a professor of psychology at the University of Toledo, specializing in post-traumatic stress disorder. Learn about our editorial process Updated on April 30, 2021 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Akeem Marsh, MD Medically reviewed by Akeem Marsh, MD LinkedIn Twitter Akeem Marsh, MD, is a board-certified child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist who has dedicated his career to working with medically underserved communities. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Adam Gault/Science Photo Library/Getty Images Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are sometimes linked. In fact, PTSD has been found to be associated with a wide range of negative physical health conditions, including cardiac disease, diabetes, cancer, headaches, chronic pain, and arthritis. With regard to arthritis, several studies have found that veterans and people in the general community with PTSD are at higher risk of having arthritis. However, it is important to note that there are several different forms of arthritis. These studies did not look at a specific form of arthritis, including juvenile arthritis, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers are beginning to specifically look at the connection between PTSD and rheumatoid arthritis gave that both conditions share several of the same risk factors (for example, cigarette smoking). What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis? Rheumatoid arthritis affects approximately 1.3 million people in the United States. It is considered an autoimmune disease. This means that for some reason the body's immune system begins to attack a person's own tissue, including joint tissue. This causes inflammation in the joints, resulting in fluid build-up and pain. There is currently no cure for RA. As a result, RA is considered a chronic disease. That said, there are a number of ways in which its symptoms can be addressed. The Relationship Between PTSD and Rheumatoid Arthritis Few studies have been conducted that specifically look at the connection between PTSD and RA. However, some studies have shown that the two conditions are associated. One study in particular also looked at whether the connection between PTSD and RA could be explained by genetic or environmental factors. In this study, a group of researchers looked at a large number of twins (all men) who served in the Vietnam War. They found that about 2 percent of people studied had RA. In addition, people with RA had more severe symptoms of PTSD. In fact, those with the highest level of PTSD symptoms were about five times more likely to have RA. In addition, the connection between PTSD and RA was not simply due to genetics or environmental factors. This suggests that there is something about PTSD, in particular, that may increase the risk for the development of RA. It is not entirely clear exactly how PTSD would increase the risk for RA but there are some possible explanations. First, the constant stress that people with PTSD experience may increase inflammation or inflammatory diseases, such as RA. In addition, PTSD is associated with a wide range of poor physical health behaviors that may increase the risk for the development of RA, such as cigarette smoking. Finding Help for PTSD and RA If you have PTSD, it is important to take steps to address your symptoms. Doing so may prevent the development of physical health problems or reduce the severity of physical health problems if they have already developed. There are also a number of effective treatments available for PTSD. By addressing your PTSD symptoms, you may be able to lift some of the obstacles that are preventing you from making positive life changes. Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Boscarino, J.A., Forsberg, C.W., & Goldberg, J. (2010). A twin study of the association between PTSD symptoms and rheumatoid arthritis. Psychosomatic Medicine, 72, 481-486. Boscarino, J.A. (2004). Association between posttraumatic stress disorder and physical illness: results and implications from clinical and epidemiologic studies. 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By Matthew Tull, PhD Matthew Tull, PhD is a professor of psychology at the University of Toledo, specializing in post-traumatic stress disorder. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for PTSD Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.