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Patient Voices: Rheumatoid Arthritis
Find the safest and most cost-effective drugs for this condition.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Hand
- Normal Knee Joint
- Synovial Fluid in the Knee Joint
- Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Knee Joint
Rheumatoid arthritis is not fatal, but complications of the disease may shorten survival by a few years in some individuals. Although rheumatoid arthritis is progressive and there is no cure, over time the disease becomes less aggressive, and symptoms may even improve.
Treatments for RA are increasingly effective in slowing this debilitating disease, and some may even prevent initial destruction by aggressively reducing inflammation. If bone and ligament destruction and any deformities have occurred, however, the effects are permanent. It is essential, therefore, to seek a doctor’s help as soon as symptoms develop. Side effects of the treatments often contribute to the severity of the disease.
Effect of Joint Disability and Pain on Daily Life
Affected joints can become deformed, and the performance of even ordinary tasks may be very difficult or impossible. According to one survey, 70% of patients with rheumatoid arthritis feel the disease prevents them from living a fully productive life.
Complications in Other Areas of the Body
Rheumatoid arthritis can affect other parts of the body as well as the joints. Some patients with severe disease may then be at higher risk for complications, such as the following:
- Peripheral Neuropathy. This condition affects the nerves, most often those in the hands and feet. It can result in tingling, numbness, or burning.
- Muscle problems. Many patients have weakness of the muscles.
- Anemia. People with RA may develop anemia, which involves a decrease in the number of red blood cells.
- Scleritis and Episcleritis. This is an inflammation of the blood vessels in the eye that can result in corneal damage. Symptoms include redness of the eye and a gritty sensation.
- Infections. Patients with RA have a higher risk for infections, particularly if they are treated only with immune-suppressing drugs (corticosteroids, anti-tumor necrosis factors, disease modifying drugs).
- Skin Problems. Skin problems are common, particularly on the fingers and under the nails. Some patients develop severe skin complications that include rash, ulcers, blisters (which may bleed in some cases), lumps under the skin, and other problems. Severe skin disease can reflects a more serious case of RA in general.
- Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis, a disorder in which bone density decreases, is more common than average in postmenopausal women with RA. The hip is particularly affected. The risk for osteoporosis also appears to be higher than average in men with RA who are over 60 years old.
- Lung Disease. Patients with RA are susceptible to chronic lung diseases, including interstitial fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension, and other problems. Both rheumatoid arthritis itself and some treatments may cause this damage.
- Kidney. Although rheumatoid arthritis only rarely involves the kidney, many of the drugs used to treat it can damage kidneys.
- Vasculitis. Vasculitis involves autoimmune inflammatory abnormalities in very small vessels and can affect many organs in the body. Manifestations of vasculitis include mouth ulcers, nerve disorders, rapid worsening of the lungs, inflammation of coronary arteries, and inflammation of the arteries supplying blood to the intestines.
- Heart Disease. Patients with RA have increased risk for death from coronary artery disease. Research suggests that he chronic inflammation associated with RA may be a factor.
- Lymphoma and Other Cancers. Patients with RA are more likely than healthy patients to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. RA’s chronic inflammatory process may play a role in the development of lymphoma. There has also been concern that some RA treatments may increase the risk for lymphoma.
- Periodontal Disease. People with RA may be twice as likely as non-arthritic individuals to have periodontal disease. Chronic inflammation and immune dysfunction are central to both diseases.
- Pregnancy. Women with RA have an increased risk for premature delivery. They are also three times more likely than healthy women to develop hypertension during the last trimester of pregnancy. For many women with RA, the disease goes into remission during pregnancy but after birth the condition recurs and symptoms can increase in severity.
Severity of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis often resolves before adulthood. Patients who experience arthritis in only a few joints do better than those with more widespread (systemic) disease, which is very difficult to treat. Although it can be very serious, very few people die from this condition.
MAS. Macrophage activation syndrome (MAS) is a life-threatening complication of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and requires immediate treatment with high-dose steroids and cyclosporin A. Parents should be aware of symptoms, which include persistent fever, weakness, drowsiness, and lethargy.