May is Arthritis Awareness Month. If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ve seen plenty of posts about arthritis and life with it. But today I wanted to talk about something different. Today, I want to talk about what can happen to people with inflammatory arthritis.
This post isn’t meant to scare anyone who has a form of inflammatory arthritis or who loves someone with it. It’s meant to educate those who think that arthritis isn’t a big deal and that people with it shouldn’t complain as much.
Arthritis increases your risk of developing heart problems – “Rheumatoid arthritis can increase your risk of hardened and blocked arteries, as well as inflammation of the sac that encloses your heart,” the Mayo Clinic says – and lung disease: “People with rheumatoid arthritis have an increased risk of inflammation and scarring of the lung tissues, which can lead to progressive shortness of breath.” (Source is the same Mayo Clinic article.)
Widespread inflammation as a result of arthritis can lead to vasculitis. “This can lead to the thickening, weakening, narrowing and scarring of blood vessel walls. In serious cases, it can affect blood flow to your body’s organs and tissues and can be life-threatening.” (Source)
And then there’s what happens when the joint inflammation that characterizes arthritis goes untreated. “If untreated, chronic joint inflammation can lead to permanent joint damage and deformity.” This also affects the tissues around the joints, including tendons, ligaments, and muscles. (Source)
As a whole, having rheumatoid arthritis shortens your lifespan by anywhere from three to twelve years, and if you develop heart disease, lung disease, vasculitis, or another illness, it can be even shorter. After all, RA is an autoimmune disease, and the medications for it suppresses the immune system. So it’s significantly easier to get other illnesses, like pneumonia, and extremely difficult to fight them.
So the next time you roll your eyes (internally or externally) when someone with arthritis talks about the disease and the bad things it can do, remember that it isn’t just some aches and pains, which can be bad enough anyway. It’s a disease that changes lives – and threatens some.
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