Can Stress Make Rheumatoid Arthritis Worse?


Paige Greenfield

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portrait of stressed woman

In short, yes. However, the reality is a little more complex. That’s because while stress can worsen the disease, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can create stress for you.

Stress is especially tough on people with autoimmune diseases such as RA. Some of the pathways involved in your body’s stress response are the same ones involved in autoimmune disease. For people with RA, stress releases chemicals that can trigger flare-ups, along with inflammation and pain.

RA as Internal Stressor

In addition, RA can affect your body’s production of the stress-related chemical cortisol. In other words, RA is a type of internal stressor. With time, stress chemicals like cortisol may increase your risk for serious health conditions such as heart disease, obesity, and depression. These problems can lead to even more stress.

W. Hayes Wilson, MD, discusses the basics of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and treatment.

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Feb 16, 2015

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