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Here Are The Main Complications Of Rheumatoid Arthritis

The proper treatment for any rheumatic disease is very important and it should be followed with utmost dedication. If not treated appropriately, daily activities such as walking, climbing stairs, and personal hygiene are affected.

Here Are The Main Complications Of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Untreated rheumatic diseases may affect internal organs and reduce life expectancy

Rheumatism refers to various painful medical conditions which affect joints, bones, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and muscles; Rheumatic diseases, also called musculoskeletal diseases, are characterized by pain and a consequent reduction in the range of motion and function in one or more areas of the musculoskeletal system; in some diseases there are signs of inflammation: swelling, redness, warmth in the affected areas. Rheumatic diseases can also affect internal organs. 

Some people use the word arthritis to refer to all rheumatic diseases. Arthritis, which literally means joint inflammation, is just part of the rheumatic diseases. Arthritis in the restricted sense primarily involves: joint pain, joint stiffness, joint inflammation, and joint damage. Rheumatic disease is not a single disorder. It encompasses more than 200 different diseases which span from various types of arthritis to Osteoporosis and on to systemic connective tissue diseases. 

In the industrialized world, rheumatic diseases affect more individuals than any other disease group. In fact, a third of people of all ages are affected at some point during their lifetime. In Europe almost, every family is affected in some way by a rheumatic disease. Moreover, untreated rheumatic diseases may reduce life expectancy. It affects all ages and both genders, although women are more frequently affected than men. 


Some common factors can increase the risk of developing rheumatic disease 

-Smoking

-Excessive weight

-Genetic factors

-Certain occupations which lead to injury and overuse of joints 

-Increasing age 

The proper treatment for any rheumatic disease is very important and it should be followed with utmost dedication. If rheumatic diseases are not treated appropriately, daily activities such as walking, climbing stairs, cooking, and personal hygiene are affected. Rheumatic diseases can also have a profound effect on work capacity. They are the single biggest cause of both sick leave and premature retirement, causing physical disability, even amongst people of working age. 

Rheumatologists are responsible for diagnosing and treating over 200 rheumatic conditions with complex and powerful medications and need the care of experts such as rheumatologists who specialize in the use and management of these medications. 

Rheumatic conditions have tremendous impact on the health and well-being of several million people in India and worldwide. Life changing, painful, deforming, costly, crippling, deadly - these are serious words to describe serious conditions. 

Contrary to notions that "aches and pains" are just a normal part of ageing, the intense joint pain, swelling, stiffness and fatigue experienced by people with rheumatic conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, often occur in people who are young and often abruptly interrupt education, careers, parenting, and other essential daily activities. 

Rheumatic conditions not only cause inflammation and damage to joints, but can also cause serious damage to other organs of the body, development of coexisting conditions, disability, and even death. 

One in ten people with rheumatoid arthritis will develop serious lung complications over the course of their conditions due to damage to the lung tissue. People with scleroderma can develop scarring of the lungs that can lead to life-threatening breathing complications."

Dr. Vijay Rao

Senior Consultant Rheumatologist, Divisha Arthritis and Medical Center, Manipal Hospitals, Bangalore

Rheumatic conditions can cause deformities so severe that those who suffer from them cannot bathe or dress themselves. Rheumatic conditions can cause damage to vital organs, including the lungs, heart, nervous system, kidneys, skin, and eyes. 

What organs other than joints can be affected by rheumatic conditions? 

Heart 

People with rheumatoid arthritis are twice as likely to develop heart conditions than the average person. Lupus greatly increases a person's risk of developing cardiovascular conditions and suffering from heart attacks. Rheumatic conditions include inflammation of the lining around the heart, causing a build-up of fluid leading to heart failure, and abnormal heart rhythms. 

Eyes

More severe eye complications can lead to decreased or complete loss of vision. Lungs 

One in ten people with rheumatoid arthritis will develop serious lung complications over the course of their conditions due to damage to the lung tissue. People with scleroderma can develop scarring of the lungs that can lead to life-threatening breathing complications. 

Nerves 

Strokes are also more frequent in patients suffering from several of the rheumatic conditions including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and giant cell arteritis. 

Blood 

Anemia is a common symptom of most rheumatic conditions including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and vasculitis. 

Blood vessels 

Scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus can cause Raynaud's syndrome - a cold-induced narrowing of the blood vessels in the fingers and toes that may lead to painful ulcerations and even gangrene. 

Skin 

Psoriatic arthritis is a particular type of rheumatic condition that occurs in some patients who have psoriasis. Scleroderma causes hardening of skin. 

Kidney 

Rheumatic diseases and their treatment affect kidney. This needs to be detected early so that there is no permanent damage to kidney. 

The good news is that with timely diagnosis done by blood tests under the supervision of a Rheumatologist, Rheumatic conditions can be treated well so that people can lead a normal life even with the disease without disabilities. There is no role for surgery in these diseases. If treated within 3 months of first symptom onset, we can achieve a cure also. 

(Dr Vijay KR Rao is Consultant Rheumatologist at Divisha Arthritis and Medical Center and Manipal Hospitals, Bangalore, India.)

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. NDTV is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV or Eli Lilly and they do not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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