Skip to content
    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Rheumatoid Arthritis: Systemic Symptoms - Topic Overview

    Rheumatoid arthritis primarily affects the joints but can also affect the whole body, causing what are called systemic symptoms. These systemic symptoms occur especially in people who have severe disease.

    Problems associated with rheumatoid arthritis can develop in the:

    Recommended Related to Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Why Does My Doctor Call RA an Autoimmune Disease?

    When your doctor tells you that you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), he may also say it's an autoimmune disease. You might not think it has anything in common with conditions like type 1 diabetes or multiple sclerosis. But it does. They all result when something misfires in your immune system. Instead of attacking threats, it goes after you.  

    Read the Why Does My Doctor Call RA an Autoimmune Disease? article > >

    • Eyes. Inflammation of the surface of the eye (scleritis) may result in dry, gritty-feeling eyes or pain in the eyes.
    • Lungs. Inflammation of the membrane sac surrounding the lungs may cause pain and difficult breathing. Bumps (nodules) may also develop in lung tissue.
    • Heart. Thickening and inflammation can develop in the sac around the heart (pericarditis), the heart muscle (myocarditis), and the heart valves (endocarditis). This can result in chest pain and shortness of breath.
    • Blood and blood vessels. Low levels of white blood cells (leukopenia) and red blood cells (anemia) as well as spleen enlargement (an organ involved in making blood and immune cells) may occur. When these problems occur together, it is called Felty's syndrome. Inflammation can also affect the blood vessels (vasculitis), causing open sores (ulcers) of the skin. And people who have rheumatoid arthritis seem to develop plaque deposits in arteries (atherosclerosis) earlier than people who do not have rheumatoid arthritis.
    • Nerves and muscles. There may be a loss of strength in muscles next to affected joints. Inflammation may also cause pressure on the nerves (compression). An example is compression of one of the nerves in the wrist, which affects sensation in the thumb, index, and middle fingers. This is called carpal tunnel syndrome.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: September 09, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    1
    Next Article:

    Rheumatoid Arthritis: Systemic Symptoms Topics

    Today on WebMD

    rubbing hands
    Avoid these 6 common mistakes.
    mature couple exercising
    Decrease pain, increase energy.
     
    mature woman threading needle
    How much do you know?
    hands
    Swelling, fatigue, pain, and more.
     
    Lucille Ball
    Slideshow
    Hand bones X-ray
    Article
     
    prescription pills
    Article
    Woman massaging her neck
    Quiz
     
    woman roasting vegetables in oven
    Slideshow
    Woman rubbing shoulder
    Slideshow
     
    doctor and patient hand examination
    Video
    arthritis
    Article