If your parents have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you probably already know how difficult and painful this journey is. Uneven stance and pain in the joints are some of the major concerns that you outrightly notice in RA but apart from that, there are other problems that go unnoticed.
That’s why it becomes all the more important for you to understand this problem to know how it is actually affecting your parents’ health.
What is rheumatoid arthritis and what are the causes?
As defined by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease that majorly affects the joints and the bones. Auto-immune diseases basically make your immune system attack healthy cells in your body, leading to swelling and inflammation.
According to the CDC, RA also affects other body organs like eyes, lungs, and heart due to which patients have to face other challenges as well.
Here are the 6 major effects of rheumatoid arthritis apart from joint ache:
1. Chest pain and breathlessness
Do you know that rheumatoid arthritis has a major impact on the lungs? That’s because the patients develop interstitial lung disease or ILD where lung inflammation leads to scarring and fibrosis. The majority of people affected by this have severe RA. It only comes to notice when they complain of chest pain and breathlessness. CT scans and X-rays are used to detect it.
“Unfortunately, people with rheumatoid arthritis don’t come to know about it as they are more focused on joint aches”, said Dr. Dipti Patel, Rheumatologist consultant, Wockhardt Hospital, Mumbai.
2. Wrist numbness
“In RA patients, carpal tunnel syndrome is seen primarily during pregnancy and when one gains weight. Carpal tunnel syndrome is characterised by the veins around the wrist getting compressed and causing numbness in the middle, index, and ring finger”, she explained.
3. Dry eyes and mouth
The dry mouth and eyes syndrome is also known as Sicca syndrome. It happens due to the creation of antibodies in the body which causes Sjogren’s syndrome.
“In Sjogren’s syndrome, inflammation of the eyes causes the white part to become red. Usually, people go to an eye specialist where they are told to meet an RA specialist”, she says.
4. Bumpy skin
“Skin nodules are the direct manifestation of RA. It is primarily seen around the elbow area. This takes place in the case of longstanding or aggressive RA. Actually, fibre and tissue get accumulated at one place, creating a node in the skin which causes it to become bumpy”, she explained.
5. Heart problems
It is rare but it can happen. According to a study published in the journal of BMC Rheumatology, people with RA have a higher risk of developing heart problems like high BP, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
“In some cases, it can cause arrhythmia which leads to irregular heartbeats. But, it can be controlled by medication”, she says.
6. Raynaud’s phenomenon
In RA, some people also develop Raynaud’s phenomenon. In this phenomenon, when an RA patient goes to cold places or sits in an air-conditioned room, s/he tends to get black fingers. This might also lead to ulcers and gangrene.
“Sadly, there is no cure for RA. Only treatment for management is available which can control the condition and make sure further joint damage doesn’t take place,” she informs.
Why are women more prone to it?
According to Dr. Patel, women above the age of 40 are more prone to developing RA. Actually, women go through a lot of hormonal changes in their bodies at various stages of life like menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. Hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and androgens influence the development of RA.
That’s why women are at a higher risk of developing RA in the first year of their pregnancy as hormones change rapidly during that period.
At times, women develop it at a much younger age than men. In fact, suffering from endometriosis might increase the risk of developing RA.
If your parents have RA, you must watch out for all these problems to control them before they interfere with their life’s quality.