10 Surprising Ways Rheumatoid Arthritis Impacts The Body
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), which is frequently confused with osteoarthritis, is an autoimmune disease that affects approximately 1.3 million Americans. Along with joint pain and swelling, approximately four out of every ten people with RA experience problems in other body parts.
RA can shorten a person's life expectancy, but with new treatments, doctors are seeing less rheumatoid disease outside of the joints and patients are living longer. Here are some of the body parts affected by RA and what can help with the symptoms.1. Joints
Rheumatoid arthritis is most commonly found in the small joints of the hands and feet, but it can spread to other parts of the body. Pain is frequently worse in the morning and can be symmetrical. There are numerous medications that can help, the majority of which aim to suppress the immune system. Chemotherapy and anti-rheumatic and anti-inflammatory medications are options.2. Heart
People with RA are twice as likely as those without it to have a heart problem. The disease causes chronic, low-grade inflammation, which damages the blood vessels and raises the risk of heart attack, stroke, heart disease, and heart failure.
The pericardium, the sac-like structure surrounding the heart, can also become inflamed as a result of RA. This complication can cause sharp chest pain and fever, and if left untreated, can cause pericardium thickening and scarring.3. Lungs
Up to 10% of RA patients develop severe lung problems. The most common conditions are pleurisy (inflammation of the lining of the lungs), which causes pain when breathing; pulmonary fibrosis (scarring of the tissue in the lungs); and an increased risk of emphysema (a type of COPD), even in nonsmokers.4. Mood
People suffering from chronic diseases, such as RA, are more likely to suffer from depression or other mood disorders—this is a common and understandable occurrence. One of the main reasons for depression in such patients is chronic pain. Plus, chronic inflammation is also linked to changes in neurotransmitters and hormones, which can affect how a person feels.5. Blood vessels
Vasculitis occurs when blood vessels become inflamed and narrowed, resulting in decreased blood flow. This can obstruct blood flow in areas such as the arms, legs, and nerves. Vasculitis can occasionally result in coronary artery disease.6. Nerves
Peripheral neuropathy, or nerve damage, occurs in some RA patients, causing burning and numbness in the feet and hands. Furthermore, when blood vessels become inflamed, the nerves are deprived of adequate blood supply, which can lead to further nerve damage.7. Eyes
Inflammation can also occur in various parts of the eye, which can result in blindness. Problems may arise in the iris (uveitis), the white of the eye (scleritis), and the membrane covering the white part of the eye (episcleritis). Blurred vision, pain, redness, and light sensitivity are some of the symptoms. Inflammation increases the risk of glaucoma and cataracts.8. Skin
Rashes, skin ulcers, nodules, or skin bumps can result from inflammation in the blood vessels moving to the skin, particularly on the hands, feet, and elbows. The bumps may come and go, and doctors are unsure what causes them.9. Wrists
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by inflammation in the joints pressing on the nerve that runs from the forearm to the wrist. Carpal tunnel syndrome is characterized by wrist pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness.10. Spleen
Some RA patients develop Felty's syndrome, a condition in which the spleen enlarges and the white blood cell count drops, making them more susceptible to infections. However, because RA can be managed relatively well, this complication is uncommon, affecting less than 1% of RA patients.
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