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Does immunoglobulin help keep osetoarthritis at bay?

Q) I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my spine about 15 years ago. In 2000, I had Guillain-Barre syndrome and was treated with immunoglobulin. For many years my symptoms improved (plus I hadn’t had any colds or infections until the last two years.) I'm wondering if the immunoglobulin helped to keep the osteoarthritis at bay and if it's known that it does, why it isn’t offered as a treatment?
Janine, Hampshire (Winter 2011

A) Immunoglobulin is used for various rheumatic diseases. Generally it's used for the connective tissue diseases, such as lupusdermatomyositis (inflammation of skin and muscles) and sometimes as ‘emergency’ treatment where drugs which suppress the immune system can't be used. It's not known exactly how it works but it's probably by several different mechanisms acting on the immune cells which are causing the problem. Although low-grade inflammation is seen in most joints affected by osteoarthritis it is, on the whole, a non-inflammatory problem and immunosuppressive drugs are seldom used. However, some people with osteoarthritis feel improved when they take drugs such as steroids (cortisone) and I think it's for a similar reason that you felt better after these drugs. I'm assuming, however, that steroids weren't part of your treatment regime when you had Guillain-Barre syndrome.

This answer was provided by Dr Philip Helliwell for the Winter 2011 edition of our magazine, Arthritis Today, and was correct at the time of publication.

Send your questions for Dr Tom Margham to enquiries@arthritisresearchuk.org


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