Rheumatoid Arthritis: NHS on common signs and symptoms
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Rheumatoid arthritis is a form a long-term chronic condition. It mainly affects the joints, causing pain, swelling and stiffness around the feet, hands and wrists. The pain or discomfort won’t be constant, it can come and go in flare ups. It doesn’t just affect the joints; it can have other complications as well.
The lungs and the heart, for example.
Rheumatoid arthritis can cause scarring in the lungs.
This may cause shortness of breath, a chronic dry cough, weakness, fatigue, and loss of appetite.
A patient may also develop lung nodules; these, say the NHS, are “small dots or areas of rounded shadowing in the lung, usually 3cm or smaller”.
While these nodules don’t cause any signs or symptoms, and don’t pose a risk of lung cancer, they can rupture and cause the patient to suffer a collapsed lung.
Furthermore, a person with this type of arthritis may also experience pleural disease.
Pleural disease is a condition that affects the tissue surrounding the lungs.
This tissue can become inflamed and, accompanied by a build-up of liquid, cause shortness of breath, a fever or pain when breathing.
As a result of the chronic inflammation resulting from the arthritis, the small airways of the lungs can become obstructed, causing the build-up of mucus.
Similarly, to the lung scarring, this can cause shortness of breath, a chronic dry cough, fatigue, and weakness.
The NHS mentions that arthritis can affect the heart too, inflaming the tissue leading to a condition known as pericarditis.
This results in chest pain.
While it may surprise, the eyes can be another casualty to rheumatoid arthritis.
Inflammation can lead to scleritis or Sjögren’s syndrome.
This syndrome causes dry eyes whilst scleritis results in eye redness and pain.
Vasculitis is another potential inflammatory side effect from arthritis.
In this scenario, your blood vessels thicken, weaken, narrow and scar at various moments.
A worst-case scenario from vasculitis is blood flow to your organs and tissues being compromised to the point where it becomes life threatening.
Even though these conditions and side effects sound unnerving and potentially frightening, with early treatment these can be avoided.
If you have any concerns about rheumatoid arthritis, consult your GP or contact the NHS.
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