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19-12-2017 | Rheumatology | News | Article

RA in mothers may impact their children’s chronic disease risk

medwireNews: Children born to mothers with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have a higher risk for developing certain chronic diseases in childhood and adolescence than other children, study results suggest.

The researchers conducted a nationwide cohort study of all children born in Denmark over a 24-year period according to the Danish Medical Birth Registry, and analyzed the incidence of chronic diseases from 15 categories covering the main non-malignant somatic and psychiatric conditions. The 2106 children born to mothers with RA were followed up for a median of 8.4 years, whereas the 1,378,539 children whose mothers did not have RA were followed up for a median of 13.8 years.

Line Jølving (Odense University Hospital, Denmark) and colleagues found that children born to mothers with RA were nearly three times as likely to develop RA themselves compared with children in the control group, with rates of 1.61% versus 0.69% and a significant hazard ratio (HR) of 2.89 after adjustment for factors including sex, maternal and child age, mode of delivery, and birth complications.

Furthermore, children whose mothers had RA were significantly more likely to have thyroid disease (0.42 vs 0.30%) and epilepsy (1.66 vs 1.31%) than those in the control group, with adjusted HRs of 2.19 and 1.61, respectively.

Rates of anxiety and personality disorders and chronic lung disease were also numerically higher among children born to mothers with RA, but the difference did not reach statistical significance.

“One of the main concerns in pregnant women with rheumatoid arthritis is whether they pass rheumatoid arthritis or other diseases to their offspring,” write Jølving and team in Arthritis Care & Research.

“These important findings should encourage pediatricians and general practitioners to [have] an increased awareness of certain chronic diseases in children being exposed to RA in utero,” they continue.

The team emphasizes that their results “call for special attention on child development of rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease, and epilepsy,” and conclude that future studies should be carried out to confirm the associations in other populations.

By Claire Barnard

medwireNews is an independent medical news service provided by Springer Healthcare. © 2017 Springer Healthcare part of the Springer Nature group