Possible complications and related conditions

There are two main ways in which other health conditions can be related to rheumatoid arthritis. The first is conditions that have symptoms in common with RA. These conditions may be suspected or may need to be ruled out when someone is in the process of getting a diagnosis of RA. The second is conditions that people with RA are more susceptible to; a complication of RA. 


Similar conditions 

The word ‘arthritis’ means ‘inflammation of the joints’ and there are over 200 forms of arthritis, of which RA is just one. Many of the symptoms, such as joint pains and swelling can be similar in various types of arthritis, but there may also be differences in some of the symptoms, how they manifest themselves and what has caused the arthritis. Your healthcare team may have ruled out other types of arthritis, such as the most common form (osteoarthritis, which is caused by wear-and-tear) before giving you a diagnosis of RA. There are also other conditions, which may not come under the category of arthritis, but could have similar symptoms, such as other auto-immune conditions or conditions that cause pain to the soft tissue, but may also impact on the joints. 

Conditions that people with RA are more susceptible to 

RA can affect multiple joints in the body, but it can also affect areas outside the joints, such as internal organs, nerves, blood vessels and muscles, which can, in turn, cause other conditions. For example, if the blood vessels become swollen due to RA, this is a related condition and complication of RA known as vasculitis.  

Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune condition, meaning that the body’s immune system, instead of fighting off infections is attacking healthy tissue, in this case in the lining of the joints. When someone has an auto-immune condition, they can be more susceptible to others. 

Sjögren’s syndrome is a condition that people with RA are more susceptible to than the general population. It is sometimes referred to as ‘dry eye’ syndrome but can cause dryness of other bodily fluids, including the mouth and vagina. Treatments can be given to improve the symptoms of this condition.  

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