Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Serious?

Yes, RA is a serious disease. While some people suffer only mild discomfort and minimal disability, medical studies have demonstrated that one third of patients are unable to work five years after they are diagnosed. At ten years, more than half of all people with RA are unable to work.

Daily joint pain is an inevitable consequence of this disease. Affected joints can become deformed, and the performance of even ordinary tasks may be very difficult or impossible. In one survey of patients with RA, 70% indicated that the disease prevented them from living a fully productive life. Respondents to that survey reported that RA interfered with their ability to carry out normal daily activities, limited their job opportunities, and decreased the joys and responsibilities of family life. Most patients also experienced some degree of Depression, Anxiety, and feelings of helplessness.

The effects of RA are not just limited to joint pain and stiffness. This disease can affect many organs in the body. It can cause skin lesions, lung fibrosis, Osteoporosis, eye inflammation, and blindness. Severe infections, gastrointestinal (GI) problems, low blood counts, and some types of cancers and lymphomas are all more common in patients with RA than in the general public. Similarly, diseases of the teeth and gums are more common in these patients. People with RA may be twice as likely as non-arthritic individuals to have periodontal diseases: Chronic inflammation and immune dysfunction are central characteristics of these diseases. Recent research indicates that people with RA—and particularly those whose disease is not well controlled—may have a higher risk for heart disease and stroke. While RA is not fatal, its complications may shorten the life span of affected individuals to a significant extent.

Osteoporosis

A disease characterized by the thinning of the bones with a reduction in bone mass owing to depletion of calcium and bone protein. Osteoporosis predisposes a person to fractures.

Lymphoma

A cancer of the lymphoid tissue.

From an economic standpoint, the costs of medical and surgical treatment, plus the expense of lost wages due to disability caused by RA, add up to millions of dollars.

Although RA is a serious disease, it is not a reason for despair. With early, aggressive treatment, the symptoms can be improved and disability can be lessened or eliminated completely.

Although RA is a serious disease; it is not a reason for despair. With early, aggressive treatment, the symptoms can be improved and disability can be lessened or eliminated completely.

I’ll never forget that day when my doctor confirmed the diagnosis and told me that I had rheumatoid Arthritis. My reaction was shock and disbelief. Sure I had all these symptoms and my hands kept swelling but I thought it had to be a temporary condition. After all, I was only 40 years young with two small children. Arthritis? How can that be? I thought it was a condition that happened to older people. I didn’t want to believe it. Since that time I’ve tried many medications, had a lot of pain and swelling in my hands to the point where I felt handicapped for short periods, but today thanks to new drugs I seldom feel that I even have arthritis.

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