Peripheral neuropathy can develop as a complication of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). You may find similar treatments for both, but your doctor is best equipped to determine what medications may work for you.
RA is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in your joints, and about 40% of people with RA develop a loss of sensation and motor function in their hands, feet, and other parts of the body.
Known as peripheral neuropathy, this condition — whether it’s a complication of RA or not — can be quite painful and affect your life.
This article explores the relationship between RA and peripheral neuropathy, how they are related, and what you can do to relieve symptoms.
RA is a chronic form of inflammation caused by a dysfunction of your immune system. Your body attacks the bones and tissues in your joints, resulting in pain, stiffness, and swelling in joints throughout your body.
Over time, this condition can lead to joint damage and dysfunction, as well as other complications.
On the other hand, neuropathy is damage to the nerves that can happen for various reasons.
It’s still a peripheral form of nerve damage, but people with neuropathy and RA might receive a diagnosis of rheumatoid neuropathy — one of the most common complications of RA.
Both of these conditions can cause discomfort or pain, but the exact nature and location of these pains can be a little different between RA and the neuropathy it can cause.
- pain or aching in one or more joints
- stiffness in one or more joints
- joint tenderness or swelling
- similar symptoms of pain or swelling on both sides of your body
- weight loss
- fatigue (low energy)
- muscle twitching
- muscle loss
- phantom sensations
- pain that is worse at night
- sensitivity to touch
- a pins and needles or tingling sensation
Does rheumatoid arthritis cause numbness and tingling?
RA usually causes swelling, inflammation, pain, and/or stiffness in your joints. Swelling can lead to a loss of sensation, but this is why
Numbness and tingling aren’t usually included in the list of direct symptoms of RA, but it’s among the common complications of this disease.
Peripheral neuropathy is a common complication of RA.
Besides RA, other diseases can lead to the development of peripheral neuropathy.
- vascular diseases
- carpal tunnel syndrome
- circulatory problems
- hormonal imbalances
- kidney disease
- liver disease
- nutritional deficiencies
- alcohol misuse
- exposure to toxins
- certain medications such as chemotherapy
Autoimmune diseases are also a trigger for peripheral neuropathy, especially conditions such as:
RA isn’t the only
Other forms of arthritis show an association with neuropathy, mainly because of the pressure swelling and inflammation put on your nerves. Over time, this pressure can lead to chronic nerve damage and neuropathic pain.
Treatment for peripheral neuropathy with RA should start with managing your underlying condition.
This usually means taking medications such as disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and anti-inflammatories to reduce the effect and progression of RA.
Healthcare professionals may add other medications to treat symptoms you have that are specific to peripheral neuropathy. These include medications also taken to treat conditions such as depression or epilepsy.
- seratonin-norepinephrine uptake inhibitors
- electrical stimulation therapy
You will likely want to consult your doctor and healthcare team about any of your symptoms, to determine whether medications are the best treatment options for you.
Healthcare professionals usually
The goal of these medications is usually to slow the progress of the disease and prevent permanent joint damage. Anti-inflammatory medications, pain medications, and steroids can be helpful, as well as physical therapy and other rehabilitative treatments.
Peripheral neuropathy is a common complication that develops alongside RA. Joint swelling and inflammation can damage nerve fibers, adding new layers to your joint pain.
Some treatments are the same for RA and peripheral neuropathy, but you might have additional treatments if you have RA and experience new nerve pain or damage.