Well, at least a post-a-week or so.
RA is truly the gift that just keeps on giving. Most people know about how the joints of the hands of someone with uncontrolled RA look – distorted, swollen, the fingers deviated toward the outside of the hand (ulnar deviation). Maybe some have seen the swollen knees and wrists. Still fewer know about the rheumatoid nodules that occur on the elbows, outer arm, on the joints of the fingers and sometimes even on the feet and ankles.
But in addition to all those, RA gives us some “gifts” that are not well known outside of the American College of Rheumatology. Here are just a few of them.
Anemia – the body doesn’t make enough red blood cells
Eye problems, including dry eyes [Sjogren’s Disease], scleritis [inflammation of the sclera, or covering, of the eyeball], iritis [inflammation of the iris], and uveitis [inflammation of the tissue layer inside the eye that supplies blood to the retina]. In addition, there is another eye disease, idiopathic orbital inflammatory syndrome (formerly known as orbital pseudotumor) which may be related to the autoimmune arthritis spectrum
Periodontal disease – the same processes that are central to RA are central to periodontal disease.
Rheumatoid lung disease is a group of lung problems related to rheumatoid arthritis. The condition can include fluid in the chest (pleural effusions), scarring (pulmonary fibrosis), lumps (nodules), and high blood pressure in the lungs (pulmonary hypertension).
Inflammation of the sac of tissue covering the heart [pericardium].
Inflammation of the inner lining of the blood vessels, especially of the legs
Inflammation of the tiny joints in the ears leading to progressive deafness secondary to inflammation of the intraosseous joints in the middle ear or to inflammation of the cells of the cochlea.
Inflammation of the spleen leading to low white blood cell counts [Felty’s Syndrome]
Cricoarytenoid Arthritis – leading to hoarseness and restriction of vocal range
Peripheral neuropathy – numbness and tingling in the hands, arms, feet and legs. Peripheral neuropathy is a neurological condition in which the nerve pathways are interfered with in some way.
Stomach and intestinal distress may be associated with rheumatoid arthritis as opposed to association with drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
Skin problems are common in RA. Generally, the more serious the skin problems, the more serious the RA.
According to an article on Health-Central.com, “mounting evidence suggests that RA can increase the risk for heart disease, possibly because of the inflammatory response in RA, which may also injure arteries and heart muscle tissue. Some studies have reported that people with RA are 30 – 50% more likely to suffer heart vessel blockages and 60 – 70% more likely to die as result than people without RA. A smaller British study indicated that about half of RA patients are likely to have silent symptoms of heart disease, and that it tends to develop about 10 years earlier than in people without RA.”
All this is frightening enough without the fact that rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most painful and disabling chronic diseases around. According to the American College of Rheumatology, it affects over 2.1 million people in the USA alone. Despite the large number of patients, “research funding for RA averages as little as $25.90 per patient and remains significantly low compared to other chronic diseases that affect far fewer people like lupus, diabetes and multiple sclerosis, which average $330.00 per patient.” [ACR Press Release]
Why, then, do so many popular websites and publications insist on putting a “happy spin” on this disease? If we RAers would just diet right, exercise right, improve our interpersonal relationships, we’d get better! Try this new drug and you will get your life back! Try these herbs and natural medicines and you won’t need the dangerous drugs used by allopathic medicine! Eat these berries! Drink this juice! Low carb diet! High carb diet! Low fat diet! Low tomato diet! So much bosh!
I think it’s because we are used to the “Mickey-D” approach to life in this country. Everything has to be fast. Everything has to be effective. Everything has to have a cure, or at least a treatment that is highly effective. Well, some things just don’t. Some things, some diseases, are very hard to treat effectively. RA is one of those.
Those of us who have it need all the help we can get.
- Help For RA-Related Lung Problems (everydayhealth.com)
- How Serious Are Painful RA Nodules? (everydayhealth.com)
- Eye Complications of Rheumatoid Arthritis (everydayhealth.com)
- Does RA Cause Lung Disease? (everydayhealth.com)