What Ra Does To Your Heart And Lungs
RA can affect more than just your joints. Complications can involve your organs, blood vessels, and bones.
RA can damage your lungs or inflame the lining around them. This causes chest pain that worsens with breathing, called pleurisy. Lung problems are the most common symptoms of RA outside the joints. This may not cause symptoms, or you might notice shortness of breath. Your doctor can treat it with drugs that ease the inflammation in your lungs.
Severe inflammation from RA in your lungs can make the tissue stiff, thickened, and scarred. This is pulmonary fibrosis, a hard-to-treat condition that makes it tough to breathe.
Likewise, RA can inflame the lining around your heart or your heart muscle . You probably wouldnât notice symptoms from that. Thereâs a chance you could feel shortness of breath or sharp, stabbing chest pain. If you do, call your doctor. It can also raise your odds of heart failure, atrial fibrillation, and stroke.
When RA gets into the cartilage that connects your ribs to your sternum, it can feel like youâre having a heart attack. This is known as chest wall pain.
Stomach Pain Or Indigestion
RA and medicines used to treat it are linked to mouth and stomach ulcers, stomach bleeding, acid reflux, diarrhea, and constipation. Painful diverticulitis and colitis are also possible if you have RA.
RA drugs like NSAIDs often cause ulcers or an upset stomach.
Belly pain is sometimes a sign of a rare RA complication called rheumatoid vasculitis — when inflammation spreads to your blood vessels. Weight loss and lack of appetite are other symptoms. Vasculitis is serious, so see a doctor right away. Learn more about vasculitis symptoms and types.
First: Rheumatoid Arthritis Is Not Just Arthritis
What does rheumatoid arthritis feel like? The short answer is: Its more than just joint pain. But here is my longer answer.
We all experience pain at some point in our lives maybe weve fallen off our bike, got hit by a ball while playing sports, cut ourselves while cooking, or got decked over the years by our siblings. Pain comes in many different forms. We try our best to avoid pain unless were a boxer, into S& M, or looking to get a new tattoo, but at least that pain has an end, right?
Well, my pain doesnt go away, in fact, its quite progressive. Since my mid-twenties Ive been experiencing chronic pain among other surprising symptoms due to the systemic autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis. My journey with chronic pain is a long incurable one that requires different medications and self-care strategies to find some quality of life.
Dont let misconceptions fool you. Arthritis is more common than you think for any age.
More often than not people are surprised to find out I live with a chronic illness. Theyre even more surprised when I start to describe what my chronic illness does to me, because I look healthy and young and there are many misconceptions about what arthritis really is. More often than not, I am told I am too young for arthritis or it could be worse. Im also met with oh, my grandmother had that in her finger.
I can assure you that rheumatoid arthritis is more than joint pain and it definitely impacts on not only the elderly.
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Explain The Pain Is It Osteoarthritis Or Rheumatoid Arthritis
If opening jars becomes more difficult because of painful hands, or if climbing stairs produces pain in your knees, “arthritis” is often the first thing that comes to mind. The two most common forms of arthritisosteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritiscan cause similar aches and pains, but there are a few key differences between them. For example:
Onset. Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage wears away. Pain occurs when bone rubs against bone. This type of arthritis pain tends to develop gradually and intermittently over several months or years.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis affecting 27 million Americans. Many people believe it’s a crippling and inevitable part of growing old. But things are changing. Treatments are better, and plenty of people age well without much arthritis. If you have osteoarthritis, you can take steps to protect your joints, reduce discomfort, and improve mobility all of which are detailed in this report. If you don’t have osteoarthritis, the report offers strategies for preventing it.
Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is an inflammatory condition in which your immune system attacks the tissues in your joints. It causes pain and stiffness that worsen over several weeks or a few months. And joint pain isn’t always the first sign of rheumatoid arthritissometimes it begins with “flu-like” symptoms of fatigue, fever, weakness, and minor joint aches.
What Is The Prognosis Of Rheumatoid Arthritis
As a rule, the severity of rheumatoid arthritis waxes and wanes. Periods of active inflammation and tissue damage marked by worsening of symptoms are interspersed with periods of little or no activity, in which symptoms get better or go away altogether . The duration of these cycles varies widely among individuals.
Outcomes are also highly variable. Some people have a relatively mild condition, with little disability or loss of function. Others at the opposite end of the spectrum experience severe disability due to pain and loss of function. Disease that remains persistently active for more than a year is likely to lead to joint deformities and disability. Approximately 40% of people have some degree of disability 10 years after their diagnosis. For most, rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic progressive illness, but about 5%-10% of people experience remission without treatment. This is uncommon, however, after the first three to six months.
Rheumatoid arthritis is not fatal, but complications of the disease shorten life span by a few years in some individuals. Although generally rheumatoid arthritis cannot be cured, the disease gradually becomes less aggressive and symptoms may even improve. However, any damage to joints and ligaments and any deformities that have occurred are permanent. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect parts of the body other than the joints.
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Ra Is The Pebble In Your Shoe
Living with RA feels like always having a pebble in your shoe. At first, you may not think that sounds like a very big deal its just a pebble, after all.
But soon you realize having a pebble in your shoe impacts almost everything you do. And sometimes the pebble is under a very tender part of your foot, so even ordinary tasks like walking or standing become excruciating.
Sometimes the pebble even cuts or bruises your foot, leaving you with an injury that hurts for weeks or months while the pebble continues its damage in another location.
Other times, the pebble moves into a roomier part of your shoe and you hardly notice its there at all. Or, if you’re lucky, you may be able to a pair of shoes that reduces the impact of the pebble.
In those cases, you may be able to do ordinary things without pain. But the uncertainty is always there. You never know which action may cause the pebble to move to another part of your shoe, making everyday life painful again.
And the pebble never ever goes away. For the rest of your life, you have to remember that theres a pebble in your shoe and make all of your plans accordingly.
Sometimes you really, really hate the pebble and you perseverate on the pain and unfairness of it all. But sometimes you meet someone else living with a pebble in their shoe, and you realize you can support each other in solidarity.
Is There A Cure For Rheumatoid Arthritis
There is no known cure for rheumatoid arthritis. However, with early, aggressive treatment with DMARDs, many patients are able to achieve remission, meaning the symptoms of RA are quiet. Sometimes, the dose of medications may be reduced when remission is achieved. It is unusual for rheumatoid arthritis to remain in remission if medications are stopped, and when this does occur , symptoms and signs usually come back over time. For this reason, it is not advisable to stop rheumatoid arthritis medications unless advised to do so by a rheumatologist.
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Ra Symptoms Often Include More Than Joint Pain
Since rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease, it will progress aggressively if not treated early on. According to a study published in a 2018 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, Early diagnosis and treatment of RA can avert or substantially slow progression of joint damage in up to 90 percent of patients, thereby preventing irreversible disability. All the more reason to recognize RAs pain symptoms many of which you might not associate with arthritis pain. These can include:
- Joint pain that occurs on both sides of the body, such as both feet, ankles, wrists, or fingers
Understanding Rheumatoid Arthritis Flares
Get more information about what flares of RA symptoms have shown researchers and how it could help you better communicate with your doctor and manage your condition.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease of ups and downs. One day, your joints feel pretty good. The next, swelling and pain ratchet up and you can barely get out of bed. These symptom episodes called flares can be unpredictable and debilitating. Because symptoms differ from person to person, doctors have had trouble agreeing on a standard definition to guide them in treating flares. New RA research hopes to develop tools to help doctors and patients bridge these gaps in understanding.
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Ways In Which Rheumatoid Arthritis Can Affect Feet
- Hammertoes Changes in the tissues around the toe joints cause an abnormal bending of the toes called hammertoe.
- Bunions Changes in the tissues around joints of the big toe cause it to bend toward the little toe and develop a bony nodule.
- Pes Planus This loosening of the arch joint in the middle of the foot may result in a painful flat foot.
- Hindfoot Valgus The loosening of the joint below the ankle causes the foot to bend outward.
Articles On Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms are different for each person who has this long-term disease.
Some people have long periods with few or no symptoms. Others feel it for months at a time in an uptick of disease activity called a flare.
Most people have lasting problems with episodes of more severe disease. New and earlier treatment is changing the overall picture, though. More people are having low disease activity or even remission.
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How To Manage Symptoms To Slow Or Halt Ra Joint Damage And Diseaseprogression
Getting on medication right away is the No. 1 thing people can do to improve RA symptoms and stop the disease from progressing. Your doctor should start you on methotrexate, according to guidelines published in July 2021 by the American College of Rheumatology .
If this treatment alone doesn’t yield the desired results, biologics should be added, the ACR advises.
“There is a window of opportunity at the beginning of the disease when you have the best chance of treating with drugs to stop RA from causing damage and the earlier a person starts aggressive drug therapy, the better, says Dr. Greer.
Its Not Just My Ra That Makes Me Feel Unwell
It has been shown that many people with RA dont take their treatment as prescribed because of side effects including: 7,8
- Hair loss
- Skin rashes
This can result in reduced disease control and increased pain or other symptoms.9,10 People living with RA should speak with their doctor about their options.
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Are Glucosamine And Chondroitin Supplements Helpful For Treating Osteoarthritis Of The Hand
Supplements are not reviewed or approved by the Food and Drug Administration . They are not required to undergo the same rigorous clinical trial methods that medications must undergo in the U.S. Some clinical trials show benefits with pain relief however, there is no proof that these supplements slow the progression of osteoarthritis. If you plan to try these, always check with your healthcare provider before using supplements. These products may interfere with medications you currently take.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Dull or burning joint pain, morning stiffness, swollen joints in your hand are all symptoms of arthritis. Many types of arthritis could affect your hands. Many treatment options are available depending on your exact arthritis type. Medications can reduce joint pain and swelling. Researchers are still working on ways to slow the progression of osteoarthritis. See your healthcare provider if you think you have arthritis in your hands. They will perform a complete exam and offer you a complete treatment plan, which includes hand exercises, use of hot and cold packs, other lifestyle tips and traditional treatments including medications, braces/splints, steroid injections and surgery.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/06/2021.
Lana’s Perspective About What Rheumatoid Arthritis Feels Like
RA varies from person to person and no two people develop the disease in the same way.
For some people, RA develops gradually, and for others, there is a sudden onset with no explanation. Symptom severity varies by person, and disease progression can be mild, moderate or severe. And symptoms and progression change with time.
Some people with RA are lucky enough to experience remission, a period where disease activity stops. But for most, remission doesnt occur, and they have persistent symptoms that require aggressive treatments.
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Symptoms Of Disease Progression
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, progressive disorder. Unless the underlying inflammation can be brought into remission, the disease will continue to advance, causing not only pain and stiffness but undermining the integrity of the joint itself.
Over time, the relentless autoimmune response can deteriorate joint cartilage, erode bone tissue, and cause the bonding of joints, further restricting the range of motion. This is especially true of weight-bearing joints in which damage can result in the loss of mobility, such as the knees.
Edema, the swelling of tissue caused by fluid retention, is also common. With rheumatoid arthritis, swelling is typically associated with inflamed joints of the feet, ankles, legs, arms, and hands.
Eventually, as their structural underpinnings are destroyed, the joints will begin to lose their shape and alignment, resulting in joint deformity.
Common examples of this include:
- Ulnar deviation: Deformity of the big joints in the knuckles
- Joint contracture: The restrictive foreshortening of muscles around a joint
- Wrist subluxation: Dislocation and misalignment of the wrist bones
It is usually at this stage that other, more potentially serious complications can develop.
Loss Of Joint Range Of Motion
As the joints of rheumatoid arthritis become more inflamed with active disease, they tend to have an incomplete range of motion. The range of motion is limited by the swelling within the joint. This is typically associated with weakness in the involved areas.
Joints affected by longstanding rheumatoid arthritis commonly lose range of motion permanently.
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Medical History And Physical Examination
After listening to your symptoms and discussing your general health and medical history, your doctor will examine your foot and ankle.
Skin. The location of callouses indicate areas of abnormal pressure on the foot. The most common location is on the ball of the foot . If the middle of the foot is involved, there may be a large prominence on the inside and bottom of the foot. This can cause callouses.
Foot shape. Your doctor will look for specific deformities, such as bunions, claw toes, and flat feet.
Flexibility. In the early stages of RA, the joints will typically still have movement. As arthritis progresses and there is a total loss of cartilage, the joints become very stiff. Whether there is motion within the joints will influence treatment options.
Tenderness to pressure. Although applying pressure to an already sensitive foot can be very uncomfortable, it is critical that your doctor identify the areas of the foot and ankle that are causing the pain. By applying gentle pressure at specific joints your doctor can determine which joints have symptoms and need treatment. The areas on the x-ray that look abnormal are not always the same ones that are causing the pain.
Relating To The Mental Struggles Of Ra
But Rheumatoid Arthritis patients are not just affected by the physical disabilities, they also must deal with the mental struggles that accommodate a chronic illness.
The disease is unpredictable, flaring at any time of the day or night without warning.
Imagine if your flu continued to resurface every few days, indefinitely, or you woke up in the morning already feeling like you had just run a marathon?
What if your injury never healed, and it began to spread to a dozen or more additional places in your body?
With Rheumatoid Arthritis, every day becomes a constant manipulation of tasks, which can weigh heavily on both those who have the disease as well as those whose lives are affected because of it.
Managing both the physical and emotional effects of RA can be taxing and frustrating, but if the patient finds a solid support system it can make a big difference in their ability to cope.
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What Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain And Discomfort Feels Like
Rheumatoid arthritis can be like the old box of chocolates adage you never know what youre going to get, according to the blogger Katie Singh, 38, of Austin, Texas. Singh was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when she 23 years old. Sometimes it feels like burning, other times it feels like throbbing throbbing so bad that you can’t think about anything else, Singh explains. There are times I’ve almost considered wanting to cut off a foot or a hand, the pain is so excruciating.