When you think of rheumatoid arthritis, you usually think of things like swollen, painful joints. But there’s a lot more to rheumatoid arthritis — and some of it may surprise you.
In this article, we take a look at some of the more unusual symptoms that can be associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
What is rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune form of arthritis. This means that your own body fights itself, attacking your joints. The result is often painful, swollen, and even disfigured joints.
RA comes and goes, with periods of remission and flare-ups. Like many autoimmune diseases, this condition might not be limited to the primary symptoms. There are many symptoms you could be having— and ignoring — that are linked to RA.
People with rheumatoid arthritis report a number of problems with their hearing, from hearing loss to tinnitus. While it’s not completely clear why this happens,
Some medications are also linked to hearing problems, including some of the medications used to treat RA, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, which include hydroxychloroquine and methotrexate.
Redness, heat, and inflammation over joints affected by RA are common symptoms with the disease, but some people report other skin problems like rashes, discoloration, and becoming easily bruised.
While these symptoms can be caused by the disease itself, be sure to talk with your doctor if you experience them. They can also be side effects of some of the medications used to treat RA.
Symptoms like snoring, coughing, and other breathing problems can be caused by all kinds of diseases or infections. However, lung diseases like obstructive sleep apnea have been linked to RA.
While these links may be coincidental, a small 2014 study suggested that the inflammation that causes a host of other symptoms with RA might also be the cause of breathing problems.
Numbness, tingling, and even weakness in your arms, legs, hands, and feet is called peripheral neuropathy. This problem makes an appearance in a number of chronic conditions, including RA.
There are many reasons why these symptoms may develop, including joint inflammation and pressure on nerves that run through those joints. But researchers wonder why some people get these symptoms, since a
There are lots of reasons that gum disease can develop, but it’s been observed as a common complication in people with RA since the early 1900s. Only recently, a
Decreased muscle mass is common in people with many types of chronic arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis is no exception. Reduced activity due to joint inflammation and pain can lead to loss of muscle mass, as well as increases in body fat, according to a
As this shift happens, increased body fat and lower muscle mass can add to the already significant cardiovascular risk people which people with RA have from the inflammation caused by the disease.
The body-wide inflammation that causes RA isn’t just limited to the joints, and even your eyes can experience symptoms from this condition. Dryness, redness, and swelling can develop, and even ulcers.
While these symptoms can sometimes be treated with medications or eye drops, problems like redness might not go away completely.
A lot of chronic conditions lead to disrupted sleep. In RA, this seems to be linked to the severity of the disease and the pain it causes. One 2014 study showed that RA pain can cause sleeplessness, which in turn can increase daytime sleepiness and other sleep problems.
Chronic illnesses and pain have long been linked with depression. Changes in lifestyle, a loss of ability or function, and pain can all contribute to depression.
A 2019 research review pointed to RA causing disruptions to the chemicals and neurotransmitters in the brain. All of these together can lead to emotional and mood disturbances, as well as trouble concentrating and other cognitive issues.
People with RA are about 70 percent more likely to develop gastrointestinal problems than people without the condition, according to the Arthritis Foundation. These problems are likely due to a number of things, including:
- medications you’re taking to treat RA
- other conditions you have alongside RA
- autoimmune complications from RA
If you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms, talk with a doctor about your concerns. If they have reason to believe you have RA, they may order some lab testing and refer you to a specialist.
A rheumatologist will oversee your RA care, but you may speak with other specialists as well to address specific symptoms. Your team of doctors may include orthopedists, physical therapists, pain management specialists, and others.
RA is a chronic disease, and you will manage it throughout your life as you experience flare-ups and periods of remission. It will take a multipronged approach — and a number of healthcare specialists — to help you meet your health needs.
Want more information and support?
For a comprehensive resource and support from a community who knows what you’re going through, download Healthline’s new rheumatoid arthritis app, RA Healthline. The RA Healthline app is available for free on the Apple App Store and Google Play. Downloading the app and getting started is simple.