Rheumatoid arthritis can impact other parts of your body, increasing your risk for conditions such as:
- Rheumatoid arthritis raises the risk of early heart disease, and research suggests the increased risk is linked to chronic inflammation caused by RA. An out-of-control inflammatory process damages blood vessels and heart tissue and has been associated with both heart attack and stroke. Talk with your doctor about steps you can take to help keep your heart as healthy as possible.
- Compared with the general population, people with rheumatoid arthritis have a higher risk of certain cancers, including lymphoma, lung cancer, and prostate cancer. Some good news: Rheumatoid arthritis may lower the risk of breast cancer and colorectal cancer.
- Rheumatoid arthritis can affect eye health, including an increased risk of dry eye, inflammation, cataracts, and glaucoma. If you have RA and experience redness, discomfort, unusual tearing, blurred vision, or itchy, dry eyes, contact your rheumatologist and make an appointment with an eye doctor (ophthalmologist).
- Both rheumatoid arthritis and one of the medications used to treat it -- corticosteroids -- raise the risk of osteoporosis. If you take or have taken corticosteroids, talk with your doctor about getting regular bone-density scans, and make sure you're doing everything that you can to keep your bones strong and healthy. Calcium and vitamin D supplements may help prevent bone loss, so work with your doctor to determine optimal doses for your situation.
- Lung problems are a common complication of rheumatoid arthritis and include infections, scarring, and inflammation of lung tissue and the small airways (bronchioles).