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Complications of Rheumatoid Arthritis

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Eye Problems: Sjogren’s Syndrome continued...

Symptoms: For people with RA, the most common symptom of Sjogren's is dry eyes and mouth. The condition can also show up as dry skin, less sweating, and dry coughing.

Treatment: The main treatment for dry eyes is artificial tears. Some people may need special eye lubricants. Severe cases may need medications to suppress the inflammation. Rare cases need surgery to help preserve tears.

For dry mouth, sip water often. Sucking on sugarless candies prompts your body to make saliva. Severe cases may need medication.

Take good care of your teeth to prevent tooth decay. This includes regular flossing and using fluoride toothpaste and rinses. See your dentist every 6 months.

Rheumatoid Lung Disease

This group of lung diseases can include scarring in the lungs, fluid in the chest, lumps in the lungs, or other problems.

Methotrexate, the most commonly used disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD), can also cause lung problems in a small number of people.

Symptoms: There aren't always symptoms, but if there are, they may include cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain.You may want to ask your doctor about getting a chest X-ray or other tests to check for any problems.

Treatment: The first step is bringing inflammation under control. Your doctor may need to drain fluid around your lungs. If you have interstitial lung disease, your doctor may prescribe steroids or other medications to reduce scarring. If scar tissue has built up in the lungs, it can't be reversed, but medications may slow down the damage.

Blood Flow Problems: Vasculitis

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 affected. Inflammation of small and medium arteries, like those that lead to the fingertips and nails, can damage skin and tissues. When vasculitis hits larger arteries, it can lead to nerve damage, loss of function in the arms or legs, or harm to internal organs.

Symptoms: Symptoms vary, depending on what part of the body is affected.   

Because vasculitis often means that RA has gotten worse, treatment usually involves getting RA under control.

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