Rheumatoid Arthritis Affects More Than Your Joints

Aug 24, 2021

Rheumatoid arthritis not only affects your joints but can also affect your entire body. This autoimmune inflammatory condition can cause problems with important organs like the heart and lungs. However, regular checkups and treatment for RA may minimize RA complications and keep their impact on your life low. Discover some ways RA affects more than just your joints and how treatment helps.


Bones and Tendons

RA causes problems with connective tissues. For example, RA can directly affect the tendons and affect bone density. Tendon damage causes problems with joint mobility and may lead to deformities, especially in the hands and feet.

Thinning bones leads to breaks and fractures. You and your doctor can help your bones with proper exercise, diet, and medications.



RA increases your chance of inflammation problems in your lungs and may cause lung damage. Some people experience pleurisy, or lung scars in the lining. Others experience chronic inflammation that causes shortness of breath. The good news is most people experience only mild symptoms. However, if left untreated, lung problems can worsen and become difficult to treat.


Heart and Blood Vessels

RA affects the lining of your arteries and increases your chance of plaque formation. Increased plaque formation may lead to artery blockage and potential strokes. In addition to artery issues, RA may lead to pericarditis, or swelling of the lining around the heart. Fortunately, medications can reduce these complications.

In addition to heart and artery issues, RA may cause issues with the blood itself. The longer your condition remains untreated, the more likely you will suffer from anemia and related complications. Some people also have an increased chance of blood clots. Many people who have long-term RA could experience a rare condition called Felty syndrome. This syndrome affects the spleen and white blood cells.


Sensitive Membranes

Many people with RA experience dry tissue problems, like dry mouth or eyes. RA increases your chance of Sjogren’s syndrome. This syndrome causes severe tissue dryness that leads to other complications. For example, you may have increased tooth and gum problems and trouble swallowing because your mouth and throat are dry. Sometimes, this condition extends to the sinuses. Women may also experience vaginal dryness.

The inflammatory factors in RA can lead to increased skin problems like rashes and skin ulcers. People with RA also experience a unique condition called rheumatoid nodules. These visible bumps often most noticeable in bony areas of the body, like the elbow. You may also experience purplish areas on your skin called purpura from broken blood vessels.


Immune System

Because RA is an autoimmune disease, the immune system does not function as it should. As a result, it can attack healthy tissues in your body. However, people with autoimmune issues tend to have less immunity to diseases andinfections. Medications used to control RA may contribute to these issues. However, you can do things to reduce your chance of illness with vaccinations and healthy habits.

The best defense to the above problems is through early diagnoses and proper RA management. Many people respond well to medications. However, these medications can affect other organs like the liver and kidneys. Therefore, work with your doctor to monitor your medications to reduce any potential side effects. Your doctor will also help you with other non-medical changes to help you achieve remission for your RA.

If you suffer from joint inflammation and pain, and you are in the Sarasota and Manatee areas, Sarasota Arthritis Center can help. We have doctors who specialize in rheumatology who can diagnose and treat RA as well as other connective tissue diseases. Contact us for an appointment to get started.

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