Arthritis Patients

A study out of the United Kingdom has presented an interesting treatment option for various forms of arthritis.

Lithium, commonly used as a mood-stabilizing drug to treat anxiety, bipolar depression, and other mental illnesses, has shown some promise in treating various forms of arthritis.

The study specifically looked at using lithium for the treatment of osteoarthritis. However, many treatments for the 100 types of arthritis and arthritis-related diseases overlap.

In fact, many patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) also suffer from osteoarthritis.

This news about lithium could be monumental for them.

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How Lithium Eases Arthritis

According to the study, conducted by the Queen Mary University of London in collaboration with scientists at the University of Otago in New Zealand, lithium chloride helped slow joint destruction and degeneration from arthritis.

A press release explaining the findings read, “The study used bovine cartilage samples exposed to inflammatory molecules to mimic the effects of arthritis and then treated the tissue with lithium chloride. The researchers demonstrated that this already commonly used drug could be used to prevent the degradation and loss of mechanical integrity of cartilage in patients with arthritis.”

In the statement to the press, professor Martin Knight, Ph.D., a co-author on the study, stated, “While we're still at an early stage in researching lithium's effects on cartilage and its suitability as a treatment, the possibility that an already widely available pharmaceutical could slow its progress is a significant step forward.”

This isn’t the first time that lithium has been investigated in correlation with arthritis.

In 1975, a study was conducted to investigate the efficacy of lithium in RA patients with granulocytopenia (also known as Felty’s syndrome.) The study, published in a 2005 edition of the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology, found that the count and concentration of peripheral blood granulocytes rose when 900 mg of lithium carbonate was given to RA patients with Felty’s syndrome. 

Read More: New RA Treatment Specifically Targets Cartilage-Damaging Cells »

Treatments That Are Outside the Box

Typically, though, lithium is used to treat manic-depressive illness. 

Patients with rheumatoid and other types of arthritis, however, are often open to trying outside-the-box treatments because so many RA remedies fail. In fact, up to 40 percent of RA patients’ initial biologic drug treatments fail.

Cathy Bass, an RA patient from Perryton, Texas, says, “If lithium showed significant improvement and minimal side effects ... at this point I would say yes!” 

Others agree.

Maria Veronica of Florham Park, NJ, said, “I haven't heard of lithium as a treatment for arthritis, but given the fact that I have no other options left in terms of RA treatments, I’d consider it.”

While research still has to be done on the potential of lithium for rheumatic disease, it’s a positive step in the right direction for the millions who have been diagnosed with these types of conditions. 

Read More: Doctors Beware! Don’t Confuse This Disease and Arthritis »