The Effects of Rheumatoid Arthritis on the Body
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease that causes problems primarily in the joints, but can cause symptoms throughout the body.
Inflammation of the finger joints causes stretching of the ligaments and tendons. This leads to the erosion of bone and cartilage and deformity of the joints. Sometimes, joints appear red and feel warm to the touch. They can become tender and painful. Read more.
Chronic inflammation of the wrists can lead to pinched nerves or carpal tunnel syndrome, which causes numbness and tingling in the wrist and hand. Your bones may appear more prominent and you may even hear a squeaking sound when moving your wrist. Read more.
A common symptom of RA is aches or pains in the shoulders. The pain is usually felt on top of the shoulder and may radiate to the neck. Damage to the shoulder joints can limit your range of motion. Some people often hear a popping or cracking sound when they move their shoulders. Read more.
People with RA often experience stiffness and swelling in the knees. It’s generally worse in the morning or after a period of being sedentary. Straightening or bending the knee properly may be difficult, hindering actions like climbing stairs or walking. Your doctor can see your knee damage through X-rays. Read more.
RA can affect the joints of the ankles, making it difficult to navigate uneven surfaces. Eventually, standing for long periods of time or walking can become painful. Read more.
RA can lead to many problems with the toes and fronts of the feet, such as claw toes and bunions. In some cases, the toes may cross over each other or stick out so that it’s uncomfortable to wear shoes. Some people with RA feel pain under the ball of the foot. Read more.
Weak supporting ligaments can cause the arch of the foot to fall, forcing the front of the foot to point outward. As the disease progresses, bones will continue to shift out of place. Walking, especially on uneven surfaces, becomes more difficult and painful. You may need special shoes to make being mobile more comfortable. Read more.
An antibody called the rheumatoid factor is found in the blood of some, but not all people with RA. Having the antibody doesn’t always mean you’ll develop the disease. RA can lower the production of red blood cells and lead to anemia. Read more.
A rare complication of RA is inflammation of the blood vessels (rheumatoid vasculitis). This can lead to problems with the nerves, skin, heart, and brain. Read more.
RA increases the risk of blocked or hardened arteries. In rare cases, it can lead to inflammation of the sac around the heart (pericarditis) or the heart muscle (myocarditis), which can cause congestive heart failure. Read more.
Skin nodules are hard bumps that form under the skin on the arms, especially around the elbow. Read more.
People with RA often have extremely dry eyes, creating a sandy or gritty feeling. Chronically dry eyes increase risk of eye infection. Read more.
A chronically dry mouth can make eating and swallowing difficult. It can also lead to gum disease, cavities, and infections in the mouth. Read more.
People with RA may experience shortness of breath due to inflammation of the airways. Read more.
RA causes damage to the lungs, which can lead to chest pain. Your doctor may notice a crackling sound while listening to your breathing with a stethoscope. Read more.