Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, which means the immune system attacks the joints, causing inflammation in joints as well as in the organs. RA differs in this way from other types of arthritis which are associated with wear and tear.
It's commonly known that RA brings with it fatigue and pain. Joints become reddened, swollen and warm. Stiffness in the joints is generally worse in the morning, easing somewhat as the day goes on.
Here are 10 things, though, that some of our readers may not know.
It's not just joints that are damaged by RA:
1) Mouth and eyes
Glands of the eyes and the mouth can experience inflammation causing dryness. This is Sjögren's syndrome. Corneal abrasion can result from eye dryness.
2) Lung lining
Lining of the lungs can experience rheumatoid inflammation resulting in pleuritis. Chest pain from deep breathing, coughing and shortness of breath may also accompany this situation.
RA causes anemia by reducing the number of red blood cells. White blood cells can also be decreased.
Having rheumatoid arthritis can increase your chances of developing some other problems as well:
4) Carpal tunnel syndrome
Via Mykola Lunov/PhotoSpin
Carpal tunnel syndrome can result from rheumatoid arthritis in the wrists as the nerve for fingers and hand is compressed.
5) Blocked and hardened arteries
The risk of arteries becoming blocked and hardening increases in the presence of RA. The sac enclosing the heart can have an increase inflammation.
6) Scarring and inflammation of lung tissue
The risk for lung tissue scarring and inflammation is greater with RA. Shortness of breath can develop and worsen.
Having rheumatoid arthritis, and using some medications for it, raise your odds of developing osteoporosis.
Rheumatoid arthritis can affect your speech:
8) Cricoarytenoid joint
The cricoarytenoid joint is responsible for changing tone of voice by tightening vocal chords. While inflammation is rare, when it does occur, the voice may sound hoarse.
Some natural remedies can bring some relief and a few side effects:
9) Natural treatments, benefits and adverse effects
Plant oils like borage, black currant and evening primrose may reduce pain and stiffness, according the Mayo Clinic. These oils can also cause diarrhea, gas and nausea.
Teas like green tea, ginger and turmeric may reduce some symptoms.
Fish oil can ease pain and stiffness. It can also cause nausea. Let your doctor know if you are taking fish oil because it can have a negative effect on some medications.
Rheumatoid arthritis may be affected by your diet:
While gluten is not strictly an RA issue it can pose problems for the person with RA who also has gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. In such a case, eating foods containing gluten can keep nutrients from being absorbed in the small intestine, and can lead to bowel inflammation.
Rheumatoid Arthritis. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
Rheumatoid arthritis. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Retrieved January 12, 2015.
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Reviewed January 13, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN