Reduced cognitive ability in people with rheumatoid arthritis compared with age-matched healthy controls

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Objective: The aim was to compare the cognitive ability of people with RA with healthy controls (HCs). Methods: People with RA were recruited from the Norfolk Arthritis Register (NOAR), a population-based cohort study of people with inflammatory arthritis. Data on aged-matched HCs (people with no cognitive impairment) came from the comparison arm of The Dementia Research and Care Clinic Study (TRACC). People with RA and HCs performed a range of cognitive ability tasks to assess attention, memory, verbal fluency, language, visuospatial skills, emotional recognition, executive function and theory of mind. A score of <88 on the Addenbrooke’s Cognitive Examination III was considered cognitive impairment. Scores were compared using linear regression adjusting for age, sex, smoking status, education, BMI, anxiety and depression. Results: Thirty-eight people with RA [mean (S.D.) age: 69.1 (8.0) years; 25 (65.8%) women] were matched with 28 HCs [mean (S.D.) age: 68.2 (6.4) years; 15 (53.6%) women]. Twenty-three (60.5%) people with RA were considered to have mild cognitive impairment [mean (S.D.) Addenbrooke’s Cognitive Examination III: RA = 85.2 (7.4), HC = 96.0 (2.5)]. People with RA had impairments in memory, verbal fluency, visuospatial functioning, executive function and emotional recognition in faces compared with HCs, after adjustment for confounders. Conclusion: People with RA had cognitive impairments in a range of domains. People with RA might benefit from cognitive impairment screening to allow for early administration of appropriate interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberrkab044
JournalRheumatology Advances in Practice
Issue number2
Early online date27 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • attention
  • cognition
  • executive function
  • memory
  • mental health
  • psychology
  • rheumatoid arthritis

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