Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that progressively affects your joints. According to some recent statistics, over 1.5 million Americans are living with RA. Although anyone can get this particular type of arthritis, it’s mainly seen affecting people between the age group 30 and 60 years, typically in women thrice than in men.
The exact cause of RA is still unknown in the 21st century, hormonal changes, infections, and genetics are seen to be the primary causes.
When it comes to reducing the progress of RA, disease-modifying medications are considered very helpful. Besides, some lifestyle changes combined with these medications can help reduce the effects and improve the quality of your life.
The following are 11 effects of rheumatoid arthritis on your body:
1. The Skeletal System
Inflammation is smaller joints in hands and feet are amongst the early signs of RA. These symptoms are often seen affecting both sides of the body. Some of these symptoms include stiffness, swelling, joint pain and tenderness, typically in the morning that can last over 30 minutes.
Although the symptoms of RA can be experienced in any part of your body, the usual ones include:
Rheumatoid arthritis, sometimes, causes burning sensations in the joints. These symptoms often come and go, leaving behind a long period of remission. However, RA on the initial stages can last up to 6 weeks.
With its progress, RA causes depleted cartilage and destroyed bones and limited range of motion of your joints, which in the long run can become deformed. RA also enhances your risk of getting osteoporosis (weakening of bones), which often leads to bone fracture.
Chronic inflammation of your wrists can also lead to Carpel Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), making the use of your wrists and hands a bit difficult. Weakened bones in the spine or neck also cause chronic pain. X-ray is the best way to figure out what all bones are affected.
2. The Circulatory System
Rheumatoid arthritis also affects making as well as transporting blood throughout your body. If you experience severe pain in your joints, make sure to get a blood test for the presence of rheumatoid factor. While not everyone with this factor develops RA, this is one of the primary diagnosis tests for RA.
RA also enhances the risk factor of anemia at the same time, typically due to a reduction in the production of RBCs or Red Blood Cells, leading to hardened or blocked arteries. However, RA can also lead to inflammation of pericarditis (sac around your heart), heart muscles, or sometimes congestive heart failure.
Sometimes, RA causes Blood vessels inflammation, which is quite a serious issue. And these blood vessels weaken and expand or narrow down, causing interference with the blood flow and problems with skin, nerves, brain, and heart.
3. The Respiratory System
Rheumatoid arthritis causes the increased risk of scarring of pleurisy (lining of the lungs) and damaged lung tissues and other problems like:
- Fluid in the chest
- Elevated blood pressure in the vessels in the lungs
- Scarring in the lungs
- Blocked airways
- Rheumatoid nodules on the lungs
While RA is known to cause damages to the respiratory system, not every affected person has these symptoms. However, breath shortening, chest pain, and coughing are some common symptoms in people who do have a damaged respiratory system.
4. The Immune System
The human immune system functions as a force that protects you from various harmful substances like bacteria, viruses, and other toxins by producing antibodies to combat these invaders.
Sometimes, the immune system fails to identify a healthy body part and starts treating it as a foreign entity. In such a scenario, the immune system starts attacking the healthy tissues inside the body and causes RA.
When the immune system attacks the muscle tissues surrounding the joints, it causes chronic inflammation throughout the body. Since autoimmune diseases are chronic, their treatment focuses on slowing down the progression as well as easing the symptoms.
Besides, there can be multiple autoimmune disorders.
5. Effects on Skin, Mouth, and Eyes
Inflammation in case of RA causes rheumatoid nodules that are hard lumps under the skin, typically found near the joints. These lumps can bother you but they aren’t painful in all cases.
According to Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation, over 4 million Americans has inflammation diseases, which is called Sjogren’s syndrome. More than half of these individuals have RA or any other autoimmune disease.
In some cases, people have two diseases present, which is called Secondary Sjogren’s Syndrome.
The affected individuals often experience excessive dryness, especially of the eyes, and some also feel burning. If the dryness of the eyes stays longer, it may lead to infection or corneal damage in severe cases.
Some individuals also experience inflammation of the eyes, but it’s rare.
Dry mouth or throat is another condition due to Sjogren’s, which makes eating or swallowing very difficult.
Those who are suffering from RA often complain about difficulty sleeping due to pain and discomfort. The affected individuals also experience excessive fatigue and almost zero energy. Some other conditions are:
- Lost appetite
- Short-term fever
- Excessive sweating
RA progression can be easily reduced if diagnosed at an early stage and treated well. Disease-modifying medications, lifestyle changes, and symptoms relievers also help greatly improve the standard and quality of life.
Make sure to always inform your doctor about any symptom changes you experience with your RA condition, which is mandatory to make required adjustments in the treatment plan as per your current condition.
Arthritis is not an adults-only disease, as over 1.5 million Americans in the age group of 30 to 60 years also have arthritis. Women are more susceptible to rheumatoid arthritis than men in this age bracket. If diagnosed at an early stage, doctors can help slow down RA progression using some disease-modifying medications and significant lifestyle changes, such as by introducing a healthy diet, a regular exercise schedule, and sufficient sleep.