Could the cause of rheumatoid arthritis have just been found?
If you or a loved one suffers from this debilitating condition, you’ve probably been told the basics. How it’s an autoimmune disease, and that for “some reason” your immune system has started attacking healthy tissue.
As to why, you’ll be told that’s not yet “fully understood.”
But now, researchers at Johns Hopkins are saying they may have the answer.
And while they haven’t come up with a “cure” yet, there are things you can do that may help — especially something that could just turn out to prevent RA in the first place.
Putting the puzzle together
Dr. Felipe Andrade, the senior researcher of this new study, says that what he and his team just discovered is like “putting together the last few pieces of a complicated jigsaw puzzle.” One that scientists have been working on for “many years.”
Actually, “many years” is quite an understatement! Over a century is more like it.
According to Dr. Andrade, since the early 1900s researchers have had a suspicion that there was a significant connection between gum disease and RA. That’s right, gum disease.
It turns out that a particular type of mouth bacteria is not only responsible for chronic gum infections, but appears to be the missing puzzle piece in finding the true cause of RA.
The Johns Hopkins researchers said that an infection with these microbes (with the unpronounceable name of A. actinomycetemcomitans) is all that it might take to stimulate your immune system to begin the “cascade of events” that leads right to the terrible pain and joint damage of this disease.
Dr. Andrade goes as far as to say that his research is the closest anyone has come to uncovering the “root cause” of RA.
During the last decade, scientists were focused on another kind of mouth bacteria known as Porphyromonas gingivalis. Hard as researchers tried, however, they couldn’t make the connection.
But Dr. Andrade and his team believed that despite that, there was a definite link. And they kept on going until they found the answer – what’s now being called “the common denominator” that links both gum disease and RA.
And this certainly isn’t the first time that gum disease has been connected to other serious health conditions. It looks like idea that a healthy mouth equals a healthy body is getting more obvious all the time.
For example, last year researchers in Finland found that even if your teeth are as white as a movie star and you don’t appear to have any problems, an undetected infection in the root tip of a tooth can practically triple your risk of heart disease.
Another study that looked at over 26,000 people uncovered that those who don’t bother seeing their dentist regularly are close to 90 percent more likely to be hit with bacterial pneumonia when compared to people who have twice-a-year dental checkups.
Other findings have linked gum disease to diabetes and a lowering of your immune function.
It all boils down to the fact that going to the dentist isn’t just something to be done when you have a toothache. Regular checkups and cleanings are as mandatory to good health as knowing what your blood pressure is or if your blood sugar is under control.
And don’t think having implants means you’re somehow protected from gum and bone infections. Actually, with implants you have to be even more careful. Untreated red, swollen or bleeding gums need to be treated immediately to prevent loss of the jaw bone that supports the implants.
While the researchers didn’t go so far as to say that regular dental checkups, cleanings and brushing and flossing every day will prevent RA, I think we’ve heard enough already to know that in this case, that proverbial ounce of prevention is worth much more than a pound of cure!
“Researchers add to evidence that common bacterial cause of gum disease may drive rheumatoid arthritis” Johns Hopkins Medicine, December 13, 2016, newswise.com