Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Kill You?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is most commonly characterized by pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints. RA is a serious disease of the autoimmune system that attacks the joints and is more common in women. It is important to detect and treat this condition at an early stage so that it is easier to prevent further damage to the joints, as well as to minimize risks for contracting stroke and heart attack.

Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Kill You?

The good news is that RA is not usually considered one of the life-threatening medical conditions. Actually, it is commonly labeled a chronic disease, that is, one that sticks with you throughout your life. However, just because it is not fatal does not mean that it is completely risk-free. There are still a lot of complications that come with RA, which may lead to shorter life expectancy and premature death. 

Complications of Rheumatoid Arthritis That Can Kill You

1. Cardiovascular Disease

One of the most common effects of RA is an increased risk of contracting cardiovascular disease. In fact, this is the leading cause of death among patients who suffer from RA. They have an almost doubled risk of suffering from stroke or heart attack, and this increases to triple, once they hit the 10-year mark, however, they are also the ones who do not show much symptoms and experience sudden attacks without warning.

2. Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is the general name for a variety of factors that increase cardiovascular risk, such as obesity, hypertension, and glucose intolerance. These conditions can usually be predicted with the chronic use of glucocorticoids and in having higher levels of inflammatory markers.

3. Atherosclerosis

Although the question of "can rheumatoid arthritis kill you" is not usually that concerning, RA patients have also been found to be at higher risk for atherosclerosis. RA and atherosclerosis have a few similar processes that operate in the same way, especially systemic inflammation. As a result, the occurrence of one usually leads to the occurrence of the other.

4. Serious Infections

Another side effect of having RA is an increased likelihood of contracting serious infections. Some studies show that among the factors that can predict infection, some of the strongest are the use of corticosteroids, advanced age, and of course, the effects of rheumatoid arthritis. However, it might be important to note that studies may have contradicting results. The incidences of serious infections seem to have gone down in patients diagnosed with RA.

5. Gastrointestinal Perforation

One reason that may lead you to ask “can rheumatoid arthritis kill you” is the occurrence of gastrointestinal perforations. This complication is quite rare. However, it does happen, and the risks of getting this complication are a bit higher for patients who are taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and glucocorticoids, as well as those who have diverticulitis.

Strategies to Save Your Life from Rheumatoid Arthritis

1. Visit Your Rheumatologist Regularly

RA can affect many aspects of your life apart from your health, including your personal relationships and even your sex life. You need to be able to tell your doctor about these issues, especially if you notice that they seem to be happening more often. This is the only way your doctor will be able to monitor your symptoms and make sure you’re getting the right treatment.

2. Be Familiar With Your Medication

Some people can be a bit paranoid when it comes to the potential side effects of their RA medication, and for good reason–these meds may actually have a few negative effects, including increased chances of developing infections. However, Googling the side effects is not a good way to stay informed, as there is a lot of misleading information online. The best thing to do is to consult your doctor and continue medications until he tells you to stop.

3. Warm Up Your Body

Discomfort and stiff joints can still continue to bother you even as you take your prescribed medications. As such, it’s important that you take simple measures like stretching in the morning and taking warm water baths in order to warm up your joints and regulate blood flow throughout your body. If you feel sore during the day, it’s good to have a heating pad to help soothe the pain.

4. Keep Yourself in Motion

If you start feeling stiff and uncomfortable, lying still is the worst thing you can do. It’s important to keep yourself moving so that your joints and muscles get some exercise. At the very least, try shifting your position every 15 minutes, but it would be better to get some exercises such as walking or stretching to minimize damage and inflammation.

5. Rest Well

Can rheumatoid arthritis kill you? No, but you still need to take care of yourself and rest well. Taking care of your body includes getting enough sleep every night, especially in the case of RA patients who need to keep their fatigue and other symptoms down to a minimum. However, it’s also important to take short naps if you need to throughout the day.

6. Tell Your Loved Ones

There’s nothing worse than going through a silent disease alone. Make sure people understand when you’re too tired to socialize, or if you need to miss out on something in favor of getting some rest. However, if RA gets too much in the way of your daily activities, consult your doctor to figure out how to remedy this.

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