Some people also have other conditions alongside RA. Here’s a look at some of the conditions that may come up.
Dry eyes can be an issue. With RA, you’re more likely to have Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune condition that targets the glands that make tears and saliva. Your eyes feel dry and gritty, as if there’s sand in them. Artificial tears can keep your eyes moist and ward off eye damage.
Also, medications that ease inflammation and pain and slow RA from getting worse can also cause eye conditions like glaucoma and cataracts, and in rare cases, pigment changes that lead to vision loss. If you take hydroxychloroquine or a corticosteroid, be sure to see your eye doctor at least once a year.
Heart and Blood Vessels
A 10-year study from Taiwan also shows that people with RA were more likely to get a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism (PE), two dangerous types of blood clots. The reasons for the increased risk aren’t clear.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The inflammation from RA can affect the lining around your wrist tendons. It puts pressure on the nerve that runs from your forearm to your wrist and hand (median nerve).
If this happens, you may have tingling, numbness, or weakness -- the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. Drugs that fight inflammation can help to soothe pain.
This bone-thinning disease can result from long-term inflammation from RA. Research shows that older adults who’ve had osteoporosis for a long time are also more likely to have RA. Weight-bearing exercise, a nutritious diet, and medication are all treatments for osteoporosis. With RA, you might need to choose types of weight-bearing exercises that aren’t high-impact, such as walking, hiking, swimming, or water aerobics.
People with RA are more likely to have depression. There could be many reasons for that, including the stress of managing a chronic condition that can be painful and affect your daily life. Know the signs of depression and get help from your doctor or a licensed counselor. Depression symptoms include:
- Feeling sad or worthless
- Losing interest in things you usually enjoy
- Sleep problems (sleeping too much or having trouble sleeping)
- Low energy
- Weight changes
- Thoughts of suicide (Help is available 24/7 by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.)
Liver and Kidneys
The issue here isn’t all from RA itself, but treatment side effects from taking certain medications for a long time. The most common RA drugs that cause health problems are:
In as many 80% of people with RA, the lungs are affected to some degree, but usually not enough to cause symptoms. It’s not common, but if it’s severe and long-lasting, that could lead to breathing problems and a condition called pulmonary fibrosis, which worsens over time. Although there’s no cure, treatments such as medication, oxygen therapy, and counseling can slow the disease.
It’s not common, but some people with RA also have another autoimmune disease. These include inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Researchers are still looking into the connection.
Or you might have GI issues because of a medication you take for Crohn’s or due to an infection.
RA can cause rheumatoid nodules, which are lumps right below the skin. They’re the same color as the rest of your skin, and they can range in size.
Type 1 Diabetes
Scientists have pinpointed a gene that raises the odds of having type 1 diabetes as well as RA. People with other types of diabetes could also have RA, and vice versa, but the risk doesn’t seem to be higher than for other people.
Some research shows that people with RA are slightly more likely to get some types of cancers, such as lymphoma, than people without RA. It’s not clear if the risk is related to long-term use of certain medications or to RA itself.