Rheumatoid Arthritis Reaches Beyond the Joints

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is usually associated with pain and swelling in the joints. However, it also causes long-term damage throughout the body. Unlike osteoarthritis, which is caused by wear and tear of the joints, RA is an autoimmune disease. This means that the disease causes the immune system to attack healthy tissue, mistaking it for diseased tissue. RA is also an inflammatory disease, meaning that it causes redness, swelling, and warmth in otherwise healthy tissue. Finally, RA is a systemic disease, meaning that it can affect the entire body, particularly if untreated.

RA can affect different parts of the body in different ways.

The Joints

Although RA is usually associated with the joints in the hands and feet, it can affect joints throughout the body, including the spine, the neck, the shoulders, the hips, the knees, and the ankles.

RA usually targets the synovium, the joint lining, causing it to swell. This leads to pain and stiffness in that joint. The inflammation also causes the cartilage between the bones to deteriorate, causing severe pain, and even permanent damage.

The Nerves

RA can compress nerves, particularly in the hands or feet. If RA attacks the wrist, it can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.

The Brain

Psychological and neurological symptoms, such as depression, brain fog, and other behavioral or cognitive changes can also occur with RA. These are sometimes a result of nerve compression due to inflammation in the joints. It may also result from inflammation throughout the body. In addition, medications for RA often have side effects that include  cognitive issues.

The Heart

RA can cause life-threatening problems in the heart and blood vessels. It can damage the blood vessels, allowing plaque to build up more easily inside the arteries, and then leading to an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. The lining of the heart can also become inflamed, causing chest pain.

The Lungs

RA affects the lungs 80% of the time, though it is not usually severe enough to cause symptoms. Some people, however, develop pulmonary fibrosis, in which the lung tissue becomes so scarred that it causes difficulties breathing.

The Bones

RA can cause osteoporosis, which is a loss of bone density and increase in bone brittleness. The osteoporosis leads to increased risk of bone fracture.

RA is a progressive disease; if left untreated, the symptoms increase in severity or spread to other parts of the body, or both.

It is crucial for someone with RA to see a doctor who can tailor a treatment plan for their symptoms. The plan should maximize mobility, while minimizing pain, and slowing the progression of their disease.

At Hamilton Grove Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, in Hamilton, NJ, we emphasize restorative care, maximizing each patient’s potential to regain and maintain function and mobility. Our care programs are designed specifically to meet the unique needs and interests of seniors and long-term care patients.

We foster an environment that is cheerful and enthusiastic, so residents truly relish and appreciate life.

Our outstanding Social Services team works hard to ensure that every resident thrives socially, emotionally, and spiritually.

We promote a culture of independence, crucial for emotional, social, and physical health. Residents are encouraged to choose their activity and meal preferences, and to perform tasks and activities as self-sufficiently as possible.

We carefully select, train and re-train our wonderful caregivers, who are especially sensitive to the needs of our long-term care patients. They treat residents with love, compassion, and dignity.

Read our reviews on caring.com, wellness.com, and senioradvisor.com to hear what our residents and their families have to say.

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