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What Is the Connection Between Chemotherapy and Arthritis?

A healthy hip and one with osteoarthritis.
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  • Written By: Jennifer Long
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 03 April 2014
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    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Chemotherapy and arthritis are connected through a treatment and condition relationship. Many types of arthritis, including those that are rheumatic, can be treated with chemotherapy drugs. Arthritis is generally considered an autoimmune or inflammatory condition. Chemotherapy works to stop abnormal cell behaviors that cause the inflammation.

Autoimmune diseases are a group of diseases that affect the function of the immune system. Instead of protecting the body against foreign antigens, an autoimmune disease confuses the immune system into seeing the tissues, organs, and other body parts as invading substances. This response causes the white blood cells to attack these parts. As part of immune response, the cells release substances called inflammatory mediators that trigger inflammation that occurs with arthritis. Chemotherapy and arthritis are linked by the effects that chemotherapy has on cellular activity.

Many people are unaware of the relationship between chemotherapy and arthritis. Traditionally, chemotherapy was the primary course of treatment for most forms of cancer. Continual research into the effect that chemotherapy has on cellular activity proved to the medical community that it can be used to combat several diseases. There are few options for effective arthritis treatment, but chemotherapy is a possibility.

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Chemotherapy and arthritis interact differently than chemotherapy and other conditions. Although the treatment alters cell behavior regardless of the condition, there are some differences when it is being used to treat arthritis. Most importantly, doses of the chemotherapy drugs that are used are not as high. Unlike aggressive diseases such as cancer, cells are not creating tumors or odd masses. In arthritis, cellular activity is limited to an inflammatory response, which means that the chemotherapy drugs need only to change how the cells behave instead of killing them completely.

Low doses of chemotherapy can also reduce side effects. Hair loss, nausea, and anemia are the most common side effects and are more pronounced as doses increase. Although it is still possible to experience some side effects, they are often less severe. Studies performed with chemotherapy and arthritis showed that patients reported minimal side effects on lower doses.

In some cases, chemotherapy and arthritis are connected in a different way. Some patients who received chemotherapy for other diseases reported that chemotherapy caused bone and joint pain. Instead of an inflammatory response, these arthritis symptoms can occur as a result of a shift in cell concentrations. Generally, these symptoms subside. To be certain, doctors should rule out an undiagnosed incident of arthritis.

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