Why is arthritis affected by the weather

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Signs & Symptoms

In almost half of rheumatoid arthritis patients, the disease also affects other organs, such as the B. cardiovascular system, lungs, kidneys, liver, skin, gastrointestinal tract, nervous system or glandular tissue:

Blood vessels

Inflammation of the vessel walls often manifests itself in circulatory disorders, which can lead to small punctiform wounds (small vessel vasculitis - see photo on the right), skin ulcers or extensive tissue death. In addition, hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis) is more common in rheumatoid arthritis.

Heart and blood vessels

Rheumatoid arthritis patients have an increased risk of heart attack (coronary artery disease). Atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries is, among other things, a consequence of the rheumatic inflammatory process and occurs more frequently with active joint inflammation, an increased disease activity. New treatment options, especially with biologics, are associated with a significantly lower rate of cardiovascular diseases. They seem to be a protective factor against corresponding heart diseases and reduce the death rate from heart attacks. In addition to the rheumatic inflammatory process, the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and cortisone also contribute to the increased frequency of cardiovascular diseases and heart attacks in rheumatoid arthritis.

In addition, rheumatoid arthritis can cause a heart valve defect and inflammation of the heart muscle and the pericardium with pericardial effusion.

lung

In every fifth patient with rheumatoid arthritis, the alveoli are inflamed. As a rule, this can only be proven with special examination methods (e.g. with high-resolution computed tomography). In rare cases, coughing, shortness of breath during exercise and general breathing difficulties are the result.

Nervous system

If nerves in the wrist are pinched off by the inflammation of the joints and tendons, this can trigger false sensations, insensitivity and pain (carpal tunnel syndrome).

In the context of rheumatoid arthritis, nerve damage in the area of ​​the feet or legs can also occur in connection with vascular inflammation, a so-called polyneuropathy. This nerve damage is accompanied by abnormal sensations, numbness and often burning pain. Symptoms of paralysis rarely occur.

Gastrointestinal tract

Inflammation, bleeding and ulcers of the stomach and intestinal lining are common consequences of treatment with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. The risk of damage to the gastrointestinal wall is significantly increased, especially in older patients who are also being treated with cortisone and who have previously had a stomach or intestinal ulcer. As a rule, this gastric damage can be prevented by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs by taking gastric protection agents (so-called proton pump inhibitors). The risk of stomach and intestinal damage is lower when taking a special group of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, the so-called coxibs.

Lacrimal and salivary glands

Rheumatoid arthritis can also affect the lacrimal and salivary glands and destroy the glandular tissue. This course is also called sicca syndrome and affects about a third of patients. The symptoms are dry mouth and a lack of tear fluid.