How Rheumatoid Arthritis Can Affect All Parts of Your Body

Left Image

By Dr. Sandeep Benkal

Dr. Sandeep Benkal boasts a comprehensive fifteen-year background as an Ayurvedic doctor, with a particular specialization in skin conditions, arthritis, PCOS, and diabetes management.

BAMS, DND| 15+ Years of Experience

How Rheumatoid Arthritis Can Affect All Parts of Your Body

Understanding Rheumatoid Arthritis and how it affects different parts of the body.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease, which means that the immune system attacks healthy cells in the body by mistake, which leads to inflammation or painful swelling in the affected parts of the body. This autoimmune disease primarily affects the joints and causes pain, swelling, stiffness, and gradually leads to joint deformity and disability. However, its impact goes beyond the joints and affects various systems throughout the body. Understanding how RA affects different parts of the body is crucial for managing the condition effectively and improving the quality of life.

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Joints:

Rheumatoid Arthritis primarily targets the synovium, the lining of the joints. The term synovium refers to the soft tissue lining the spaces of diarthrodial joints, tendon sheaths and bursae. It includes the continuous surface layer of cells (intima) and the underlying tissue (subintima). Synovial fluid lubricates articular cartilage and provides nourishment through diffusion. 

In people with Rheumatoid Arthritis, the immune system mistakenly attacks this tissue, leading to inflammation. Over time, this inflammation can cause damage to the cartilage and bone within the joint, resulting in pain, stiffness, and loss of function. RA commonly affects small joints, such as those in the hands and feet, but it can also involve larger joints like the knees and hips.

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Bones:

Chronic inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis can lead to osteoporosis, a condition characterized by weakened and brittle bones. This condition makes individuals with RA face higher risk of fractures, especially in areas affected by joint deformities.

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Muscles:

Rheumatoid Arthritis can lead to muscle weakness and deteriorate, due to sedentary lifestyle, lack of physical activity, which result in joint pain and stiffness. Inflammation can also directly affect muscles, causing them to become inflamed and tender.

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Skin:

Rheumatoid nodules are firm lumps that appear subcutaneously (i.e. under the skin) in up to 20% of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. These firm lumps under the skin often form over pressure points or near the affected joints. These nodules are typically painless but can sometimes become inflamed and tender.

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Eyes:

Rheumatoid Arthritis can affect the eyes, leading to inflammation of the sclera (scleritis). The most common eye-related symptom of rheumatoid arthritis is dryness. Dry eyes are prone to infection, and if untreated, severe dry eyes can cause damage to the cornea, the clear, dome-shaped surface of the eye that helps our eyes to focus. It can also cause dry eye syndrome, which can lead to irritation, redness, and a gritty sensation in the eyes.

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Heart / Blood Vessels:

People with RA have an increased risk of developing heart disease and heart failure. This happens because RA causes chronic inflammation, which, over time, affects the heart's ability to function. Chronic inflammation can damage the blood vessels and increase the likelihood of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Treating RA and managing chronic inflammation can help lower your risk of cardiac complications.

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lungs:

Lung problems are common in Rheumatoid Arthritis. They often cause no symptoms, but for some people this could be the main symptom. The cause of lung disease associated with RA is unknown. Some medicines used to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis, can cause this as well. People with this kind of symptom could develop inflammation and scarring of the lungs (interstitial lung disease), leading to shortness of breath, coughing, and decreased lung function.

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Nervous System:

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is associated with various non articular manifestations, including a range of neurologic abnormalities, such as cervical spine instability, compressive or entrapment neuropathy which results from compression on a nerve at some point over its course in the upper limb. RA can also affect the median nerve at the wrist, which results in carpal tunnel syndrome [CTS]). The symptoms to watch out for include, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the extremities.

Managing Rheumatoid Arthritis involves not only controlling joint inflammation but also addressing its effects on other organs and systems. A comprehensive treatment approach, that include proper diagnosis by Ayurvedic doctors, Ayurvedic medications, lifestyle modifications, and regular monitoring, is essential for effectively managing the condition and improving overall well-being.