Rheumatoid Lung Disease
This group of diseases can include scarring in the lungs, fluid in the chest, nodules in the lungs, or other problems. It’s rare, but the drug methotrexate, which many people with RA take, can also cause lung problems.
Symptoms: There aren't always warning signs, but when there are, they may include cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain. Ask your doctor if you should get a chest X-ray or other tests to check for problems.
Treatment: The first step is to control inflammation. Your doctor may need to drain fluid around your lungs. If you have interstitial lung disease, which causes scarring, your doctor may prescribe steroids or other medications to reduce its progress. If scar tissue has built up in your lungs, it will stay, but medications may slow down the damage.
Vasculitis (Blood Flow Problems)
Vasculitis is inflammation of the blood vessels. It's most common in advanced RA.
The amount of damage depends on the size of the arteries. Inflammation of small and medium arteries, like those that lead to the fingertips and nails, can harm skin and tissues. When vasculitis hits larger arteries, it can lead to nerve damage, problems using your arms or legs, or damage to your internal organs.
Symptoms: These vary, depending on what part of the body is affected.
Treatment: Because vasculitis often means that RA is more severe, your doctor will focus on getting your disease under control. You may need even more intense treatment.
Not everyone with RA gets depressed, but depression isn’t unusual in people who have the disease.
Symptoms may include:
- Deep feelings of sadness, anxiety, emptiness, hopelessness, worthlessness, and guilt
- Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed
- Trouble concentrating or making decisions
Treatment: Many people talk with a counselor and take antidepressants, if needed. If you have symptoms of depression, tell your doctor. That way, you can work together to figure out the best treatment for you and get started ASAP.
In this condition, bones are fragile and thin, making them more likely to break. People with RA are more likely than other people to get osteoporosis. The disease may also cause bone loss, and so can some medications, like steroids. Also, if RA pain makes you less active, you might be more likely to get osteoporosis.
Symptoms: Bone density tests can tell you if you have it. Otherwise, you might not know until its late stages. You could have back pain, stooped posture, a curved upper back, and fractures. You might also lose height.
Treatment: Take these steps to treat and prevent osteoporosis: Eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, do weight-bearing exercises like walking or lifting weights, quit smoking, and limit alcohol. If needed, there are medications to treat and prevent the condition.