A serious disease of the autoimmune system, rheumatoid arthritis mostly affects the joints. Nonetheless, since it is a systemic autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis may also affect other body areas. Here are some of the other symptoms that can be linked with a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.
One area that may be unfavorably affected due to rheumatoid arthritis is the heart. It is common for fluid to collect near the heart as a result of inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Although such symptoms are frequently fairly mild, this problem may potentially develop into something more serious.
If severe inflammation occurs, it can affect the heart muscle. Coronary arteries may swell, making the heart muscle work harder. The lungs might also be involved in rheumatoid arthritis. Similar to the heart muscle, fluid may collect around the lungs, and the lung tissue may stiffen. Rheumatoid arthritis related inflammation can make breathing difficult.
It is not uncommon for rheumatoid arthritis patients to report small nodules that are formed under the epidermis, as one other area that may be affected is the skin. The majority of the time, these small nodules are located in close proximity to a joint area. These skin nodules become most noticeable when a joint is flexed.
Purpura is another skin condition regularly associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Purpura are purplish patches on the skin which develop due to damage to blood vessels. Rheumatoid arthritis can make blood vessels develop damage, triggering them to rupture and bleed into the skin, a process known as vasculitis. Another skin problem associated with rheumatoid arthritis are skin ulcers; they appear because of vasculitic lesions.
Rheumatoid arthritis can severely affect the body's musculoskeletal structures. As inflammation strikes the joints, muscles can become shrunken and weak. This is called as atrophy. The hands are the area most vulnerable to atrophy.
Atrophy is the result of not using a muscle or set of muscles for an extensive period of time. Muscles joints affected by arthritis are prone to becoming the source of discomfort, pain, and swelling. In turn, the patient does not use the stricken muscles, and this causes atrophy.
The digestive tract is also affected. The most common effect is known as dry mouth, which is related to Sjogren's syndrome. Most digestive complaints associated with rheumatoid arthritis seem to come as a result of medications taken for it. Typical digestive conditions related to these medications comprise stomach ulcers and gastritis.