Video Q & A:

RA Progression


What are the most common complications of rheumatoid arthritis?

Expert:   Harry D. Fischer, MD, Chief of Rheumatology, Beth Israel Medical Center New York »

Rheumatoid arthritis hurts your joints, but it also causes complications in other parts of your body. Find out what you're at risk for.

Transcript: Rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t only affect the joints. Complications occur in other parts of the body as well. But, if you treat RA as EARLY and CONSISTENTLY as possible, these complications will—hopefully—remain MINIMAL. Rheumatoid nodules are hard lumps that form under the skin and are often painless. They grow most often on the hands and elbow joints of people with high levels of RHEUMATOID FACTOR, the antibody that a person with RA produces. They may HURT when bumped, and can make daily tasks VERY difficult, particularly if they are on the soles of the feet or the hands. A person can choose to receive injections or undergo surgery in order to shrink OR remove the nodules. RA may also affect the EYES. Rarely, RA will cause dry eye syndrome, which means a person has decreased tear production. Dry eye is also a symptom of Sjogren’s syndrome, a disorder commonly associated with RA. In SJOGREN’S syndrome, the immune system attacks MOISTURE-PRODUCING glands. The most common symptoms are dry eye and dry mouth. Finally, RA has a fairly large impact on a person’s HEART and LUNG health. The heart’s OUTER lining commonly becomes inflamed in people with RA. When it’s persistent, this condition, called PERICARDITIS, hinders heart function. Perhaps due to PERSISTENT inflammation, people with RA are also MORE likely to develop heart disease AND have strokes. An RA patient’s LUNGS are susceptible to sometimes-SERIOUS scarring due to an overactive immune system. It’s also possible that the lung’s LINING may become inflamed. Finally, nodules may grow in the lungs, but they’re only hazardous if they cause a collapsed lung. Remember, your risk for complications may be effectively reduced, IF you control RA with consistent treatment and therapy. For more answer to your rheumatoid arthritis questions, watch other videos in this series. More »

Can't Find an Answer? Send us your question »