MONDAY, Dec. 11, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Children born to mothers with rheumatoid arthritis are at increased risk for the disease and other chronic health problems, a new study suggests.
The finding comes from an analysis of long-term follow-up data on all children born in Denmark in a 25-year period. That included more than 2,100 children born to women diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis before pregnancy and 1.3 million children born to women who did not have the disease.
The children born to women with the disease were almost three more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis themselves, the study found. They also had a 2.2 times greater risk for thyroid disease and a 1.6 higher risk for epilepsy.
The study was published online Dec. 11 in the journal Arthritis Care & Research.
The researchers said their findings should be used to increase awareness among doctors.
"We have addressed a concern in pregnant women with rheumatoid arthritis in terms of a potential increased risk of a negative impact of their chronic disease on the future health of their offspring," researcher Line Joelving said in a journal news release. She's with the Centre for Clinical Epidemiology at Odense University Hospital in Denmark.
"Our results call for special attention on child development of rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease and epilepsy if exposed to rheumatoid arthritis in utero," she added.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks the joints.
The Arthritis Foundation has more on rheumatoid arthritis.