Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition that causes chronic inflammation of the joints such as knees, hips, ankles and hands. It is accompanied by high levels of pain and can cause severe disability issues. More likely to strike women than men, the condition is commonly occurring in those over the age of 40 although it also affects much younger people. It affects about 1% of the population and can be dependent on a host of factors that include weight, environment, smoking and genetics.
Contrary to common belief, the affects of rheumatoid arthritis go beyond merely affecting joints and causing restrictions on a person's mobility. In fact the condition can have significant and widespread effects on the whole body. One such effect can be seen on skin with the development of rheumatoid nodules. These are lumps of tissues that can occur, usually under the skin in areas such as the fingers, forearms, elbows and heels. They can even occur in the lungs and heart or appear as ulcers.
Rheumatoid arthritis's effects on the body can be detected in the eyes as well. Inflammations in the eyes, especially in the white area, can turn the eye red and cause pain. Vision loss and an increase risk of Sjogren's syndrome are some of the other ways the disease can take its toll on the eyes. The heart and blood vessels are yet another set of organs that could be affected by this condition and thereby place people under heightened risk of cardiovascular diseases, heart attacks and stroke. Inflammation of blood vessels is another common complication that could also prove to be of a serious nature.
The effects of rheumatoid arthritis can also extend to blood cells. It can affect the body by lowering levels of red blood cells, causing a condition known as anemia, which in turn causes fatigue, accelerated heart beat, dizziness and insomnia. Lung problems are yet another way in which we can witness the effects of rheumatoid arthritis on the body. Inflammation of the lungs that can be attributed to the condition may cause pleuritis and fluid collection. Some complications that may arise as a result include collapsed lungs, infections and coughing up of blood. What is worse is the tendency for some rheumatoid arthritis medication to cause lung problems that could result in shortness of breath, cough and fever.
Most medication available for its treatment tends to suppress the immune system and this could in turn cause complications by increased disease and illness arising from a suppressed immune system.
Life can be difficult at best for those living with this condition. The constant pain coupled with the inability to move about freely and enjoy life as well as the pain and difficulty in getting the most basic chores done without pain or restrictions can, and often does, lead to high levels of depression in a significant percentage of people living with this condition. Thus rheumatoid arthritis doesn't only take a toll on a person's body; it also takes a toll on a person's mental health.