So what is arthritis? It’s a condition where you experience inflammation in the various joints in your body. Arthritis occurs mostly, but not restricted to geriatrics. According to the Center For Disease Control (CDC), as of 2017 in the United States, 54.4 million adults were affected by arthritis and 32.7 million had their movement restricted to some degree.
The causes of arthritis can be numerous. Some of them are injury, genetic inheritance, infections such as Lyme disease and abnormal metabolism that can lead to conditions like gout and pseudo-gout.
Rheumatoid arthritis is considered to be a systemic disease, which means that it can affect various parts of your body. If that was not bad enough, some of the drugs being used for treating rheumatoid arthritis can also cause trouble for your health.
Unfortunately, many of these problems cannot be detected with immediate effects such as thinning of bones or changes occurring in kidney function. Therefore, you may get through lab tests without any serious detection of symptoms. On the other hand, there are symptoms such as skin rashes or excessive drying of your mouth that you can notice and report to your doctor.
Let’s take a one by one look at how rheumatoid arthritis affects your body
Effects On Skin
Rheumatoid arthritis can cause your body to develop rheumatoid nodules, which are lumps of tissue that are formed under your skin. They generally form over bony regions of your body that experience the most pressure such as your fingers and elbows. However, it is not necessary that you may require treatment for the nodule, unless it is located in a crucial part of your body, like your ankle joint. The nodules may go away on their own or through anti-rheumatoid drugs.
It can also cause rashes on your skin in the form of rashes. The rashes are identifiable in the form of red dots in normal cases. However, in severe cases, vacuities can lead to skin ulcers on your legs or under your nails.
Effects On Your Bones
The most common effect that rheumatoid arthritis has on bones is thinning. Chronic inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis results in bone density loss, which occurs not only around your joints but also throughout your body, which can lead to thinning of bones, thus also making them brittle. Typically, if the case is not severe, calcium supplement and vitamin D rich diet can help you restore your bones. Otherwise, your doctor may need to prescribe drugs that help stimulate the growth of your bones or prevent bone loss.
Effects On Your Eyes
This is not very common, but rheumatoid arthritis can lead to the development of inflammation of the white portion of your eyes known as scleritis which can lead to scarring. The symptoms include pain, redness of the eyes, blurring of vision and most important of all, light sensitivity. Scleritis is a treatable disorder through medications, however, in rare cases; your eyes may get permanently damaged. Rheumatoid arthritis can also lead to uveitis, which is the inflammation of the area between the retina and the white portion of the eye, which on not treating can lead to blindness.
Dryness of eyes is another condition caused by this disease which happens due to the damage caused to the tear-producing glands of your eyes, a condition that is also called Sjogren’s Syndrome. In this condition, you may feel dry and gritty in your eyes. Artificial tear solutions and medications prescribed by doctors can help you keep your eyes comfortable and thus prevent dryness-related damage.
Effects On Your Mouth
Just like your eyes, your mouth also has moisture-producing glands which can get subjected to inflammation, thus resulting in drying of your mouth. You can treat this condition with artificial saliva medications that you can buy over the counter. If not, your doctor will prescribe your medications which increase the amount of saliva in your mouth. In addition to that, good dental hygiene is also important since bacteria can grow in a dry mouth which can further lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
Effects On Your Lungs
Approximately 80 percent of the people facing rheumatoid arthritis have some level of issues caused to their lungs that are not very severe. However, the prolonged disease can lead to pulmonary fibrosis that can make breathing difficult.
Effects On Your Blood Vessels
Atherosclerosis is the chronic inflammation occurring in your blood vessels that can lead to damage of the endothelial cells that form the inner lining of your blood vessels, which leads to your blood vessels absorb more cholesterol and lead to forming of plaques.
These plaques when breaking loose they can lead to blockage of blood vessels which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. A 2010 Swedish study found that people with rheumatoid arthritis are 60 percent more vulnerable to heart attack than others.
It can also cause pain in the chest. Any treatment that is directed to control arthritis controls this condition.
Effects On Liver And Kidneys
Although rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t affect your liver and kidneys directly, the medications prescribed can lead to liver failure and kidney problems.
Effects On Your Blood
Anemia is commonly observed in rheumatoid arthritis patients. If the inflammation goes unchecked, it can lead to a decrease in the red blood cells which is observable by headache and fatigue.
It can also lead to the formation of blood clots and an increased level of blood platelets.
However, the most important effects are the Felty syndrome. This is actually a very rare condition where the person develops enlarged spleen which is characterized by low white blood cell count.
This condition can lead to an increase in the risk of infection and lymphoma.
Apart from these body parts, rheumatoid arthritis can also affect your nervous system. With a rapidly evolving and developing medical science, we can be sure that rheumatoid arthritis will soon be relegated to becoming a disease of the past, with treatments that are within the reach of an average patient.