Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a chronic inflammatory disorder causing pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in the joints (more commonly, in the wrists and fingers) can also affect other parts of the body.
Dr Tan York Kiat, Senior Consultant from the
Department of Rheumatology & Immunology at
Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the
SingHealth group, explains. (iStock photo)
In Singapore, Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the most common chronic inflammatory arthritis. The exact cause of RA is unknown, although genes, environment and hormones may be contributing factors.
"For some people, the illness might be relatively self-limited while others have a chronic progressive disease and may suffer from stiff, painful and inflamed joints for a lifetime," Dr Tan said.
What we know is that RA is an autoimmune disorder, characterised by a faulty immune system that attacks the individual's own healthy tissues such as the joint linings (synovium).
But it's not just pain that RA patients have to contend with.
This autoimmune disease can affect other parts of the body too. Even with proper diagnosis and treatment options like medication, physical and occupational therapy and surgery, patients with RA may suffer complications. These include:
What it is: A reduction of red blood cells in the body
Symptoms to watch for: Fatigue, dizziness, rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath
How high is the risk: About 30 to 60 per cent of RA patients are affected
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What it is: When the arteries harden due to a build-up of plaque (a condition known as atherosclerosis), there is an increased risk of a heart attack
Symptoms to watch for: No obvious symptoms, until the blood circulation becomes restricted or blocked
How high is the risk: RA patients have a higher risk of death from coronary artery disease (about 60 per cent higher) compared with the general population
Early heart attack symptoms that can be easily missed
What it is: Sjogren's syndrome is a condition where the immune system attacks the glands which produce tears and saliva
Symptoms to watch for: Eyes feel gritty and dry. If left untreated, this dryness can lead to infection and scarring of the conjunctiva. Dry mouth can lead to dental caries with poor oral hygiene
How high is the risk: About 10 to 15 per cent of RA patients are affected
Does RA affect more males or females? How is it treated?
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