Complications and Risk Factors of Rheumatoid Arthritis

the pain of rheumatoid arthritisWe all know that rheumatoid arthritis is a serious disease and if diagnosed, it can fill people with absolute dread. The fact that there is no actual cure also adds to the fear. It’s important to fully comprehend what rheumatoid arthritis is and the extent of the symptoms. Facing the fear of rheumatoid arthritis is essential as there will be changes that occur. Certainly, physically, but emotionally and mentally too.  There are so many treatments available and pain management is an essential part of being able to manage the disease, so each person can understand it, face it and not be fazed by it.


Although research into rheumatoid arthritis is ongoing, the actual cause is yet to be determined. We do know that specific genes will increase the risk for this disease but as an autoimmune disease, it is the individual’s own body – their immune system that attacks the tissues, leading to inflammation of the joints. But, the extent of rheumatoid arthritis is far-reaching.


Symptoms include:

  • Stiffness – the affected joints are inflamed and have less flexibility and movement. This is often worse first thing in the morning. Although this is not just indicative of rheumatoid arthritis, it typically takes someone with this disease much longer until stiffness eases.
  • Swelling- joints can become noticeably swollen as fluid enters the joint. The joint is also likely to feel warmer to touch and with visible red patches.
  • Chronic pain- it is the information within the joint that makes it tender and sensitive and sometimes extremely painful. Over time, the joint may become damaged.


The hands are often visibly affected but rheumatoid arthritis can impact any joint and there is usually a symmetrical pattern, so, the same joints will be affected on both sides of the body. Although it is a long-term disease, it’s good to know that the symptoms can alleviate. There may be painful flare-ups but, fortunately, it can go into a remissive state.  For some, the disease burns out.


There are many symptoms including:

  • Intense fatigue
  • Muscular aches and pains
  • Reduced appetite



Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disease, and this means that the body’s organs could also be affected. This is worrying but if medical support is consistent, any changes can be monitored. There is also the potential for corneal abrasion and inflammation of the sclerae (whites of the eyes). Scarring of the lung tissues is also possible along with rheumatoid nodules and inflammation of the pericardium surrounding the heart – this could cause chest pain varying in intensity if leaning forward or lying down.


Symptoms also include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Inflammation of the lining of the heart
  • Voice may become hoarse
  • Dry eyes syndrome and cataracts


In addition, there is an increased risk of:

  • Heart attack
  • Red and white blood cells being affected
  • Blood vessel inflammation – vasculitis


Vasculitis affects the blood supply to the tissues and can lead to necrosis i.e. tissue death. This can be visible as tiny black areas around the nails or it may manifest as leg ulcers.

Although these complications are serious, they will not happen to everyone. It is still possible to enjoy life day to day and to continue with family life although it may take a more creative approach to dealing with children if joint pain is flaring up. For some, rheumatoid arthritis goes into remission during pregnancy. Ultimately, everyone will be affected differently but with good medical support and up-to-date options for health, doctors can start to reduce the pain and stiffness experienced while improving quality of life and that’s important.