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Thriving with Arthritis: What Your Doctors May Not Tell You

If you or your clients are among the 1 in 4 adults in the United States that have been told by their

doctor that they had some form of arthritis, this article is for you! While a specialist or

rheumatologist may prescribe medications and provide valuable insights into how to best manage

symptoms, there are many things they may NOT be telling you.


Did you know there is often a discrepancy between what you are told and the reality of this disease? There are oftentimes many additional symptoms and side-effects of an arthritis diagnosis that you should know. First and foremost, what exactly is arthritis?


● Arthritis is the swelling and tenderness of one or more joints.

● The main symptoms are joint pain and stiffness, which typically worsen with age.

● The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

● Osteoarthritis causes cartilage — the hard, slippery tissue that covers the ends of

bones where they form a joint — to break down.

● Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease in which the immune system attacks the joints,

beginning with the lining of joints.


After receiving a specific diagnosis, some of the most common information given to patients

about arthritis is:


● It is genetic and cannot be prevented

● You should limit frequency and intensity of activities

● Competitive sports are NOT a good idea

● Pain and swelling is common

● Use over the counter pain/inflammation medication

● Biologic Drugs will be a part of your lifestyle

● Losing weight can help with symptoms

● Eat an inflammatory diet and drink more water

● Avoid stress

● Sleep more


However, since there are various forms of arthritis and every BODY is affected differently, there

are many symptoms that you should know. What you may not have been told to expect is that

you may experience:


● Hearing Loss

People with arthritis report a number of problems with their hearing, from hearing loss to tinnitus. Evidence points to the body-wide inflammation common with various types of arthritis. Some medications are also linked to hearing problems.


● Skin Rashes and Bruising

Redness, heat, and inflammation over joints are common symptoms, but other skin problems like rashes, discoloration, and becoming easily bruised may occur.


● Breathing Problems

Symptoms like snoring, coughing, and other breathing problems can be caused by all kinds of diseases or infections. However, lung diseases like obstructive sleep apnea have been linked to various forms of arthritis.


● Numbness and Tingling

Numbness, tingling, and even weakness in your arms, legs, hands, and feet is called peripheral neuropathy. This problem makes an appearance in a number of chronic conditions, including arthritis.


● Gum Disease

A common complication in people with arthritis since the early 1900s. Gingivitis, or gum disease, in people with arthritis is often caused by the same bacteria that triggers the autoimmune inflammatory response that happens in autoimmune diseases such as RA, Lupus, Psoriatic Arthritis

and more.


● Increased Body Fat

Decreased muscle mass is common in people with many types of chronic arthritis, and arthritis is no exception. Reduced activity due to joint inflammation and pain can lead to loss of muscle mass, as well as increases in body fat, according to a 2018 study. As this shift happens, increased body fat and lower muscle mass can add to the already significant cardiovascular risk people with RA have from the inflammation caused by the disease.


● Eye Irritation

The body-wide inflammation that causes various forms of arthritis is NOT just limited to the joints. Your eyes can experience symptoms from this condition such as dryness, redness, and swelling can develop, and even ulcers.


● Sleep Problems

A lot of chronic conditions lead to disrupted sleep and seem to be linked to the severity of the disease and the pain it causes. A 2014 study showed that arthritis pain can cause sleeplessness, which in turn can increase daytime sleepiness and other sleep problems.


● Cognitive, Mood and Emotional Disturbances

Chronic illnesses and pain have long been linked with depression. Changes in lifestyle, a loss of ability or function, and pain can all contribute to depression. A 2019 research review pointed to various forms of arthritis causing disruptions to the chemicals and neurotransmitters in the brain. Together, they can lead to emotional and mood disturbances, as well as trouble concentrating and other cognitive issues


● Digestive Problems

People with arthritis are about 70 percent more likely to develop gastrointestinal problems than people without the condition, according to the Arthritis Foundation. A 2019 population-based study found that roughly 20 percent of people with RA have irritable bowel syndrome, as well as other symptoms like nausea and bloating. Researchers have linked these problems to other immune-related conditions, too.


These problems are likely due to a number of things, including:

● Medications you’re taking

● Other conditions you have alongside your disease

● Infections and autoimmune complication


● Weather Related Flares

○ People with various forms of arthritis are affected by the weather. The change of seasons and the sudden rise and fall of temperatures along with barometric pressure changes due to altitude changes such as flying and traveling through higher elevations can affect arthritis. In fact, there is a

link between chronic pain and humid, windy days with low atmospheric pressure.


What you should also take into consideration is that inflammation is NOT limited to joints and daily exercise and movement is a MUST. When it comes to managing and reducing the onset of these symptoms, know your “triggers.” Remember that things like stress, sleep, hydration, nutrition, and medications all play a role in how your body reacts to arthritis.


In addition, be sure that your family members or your support system is also aware of these potential symptoms so they can best support you. Most importantly, be kind to yourself and remember that a disease does not define you.


Resources:

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, September 15). Arthritis. Mayo

Clinic. Mayo Clinic Arthritis Article

MediLexicon International. (n.d.). Does weather really affect our experience of pain?. Medical

News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326884

Obstructive sleep apnea in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: Correlation with disease activity

and pulmonary function tests. (2014, May 21) The Egyptian Rheumatologist.

.https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1110116414000350?via%3Dihub

Population based study: Atopy and autoimmune ... - wiley online library. OnlinelibraryWiley.

(n.d.) 2023, May 24. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/apt.15120

Westhovens, R., Elst, K. V. der, Matthys, A., Tran, M., & Gilloteau, I. (2014, January 1). Sleep

problems in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The Journal of Rheumatology.

https://www.jrheum.org/content/41/1/31.short

Zimlich, R. (2021, October 12). 10 unusual symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and why they

occur. Healthline.

https://www.healthline.com/health/rheumatoid-arthritis/unusual-symptoms-of-rheumatoid

arthritis#hearing-problems

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