Outlook /Prognosis for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Regular blood or urine tests should be done to determine how well medications are working and if drugs are causing any side effects.
Rheumatoid Arthritis differs from person to person. People with rheumatoid factor, the anti-CCP antibody, or subcutaneous nodules seem to have a more severe form of the disease. People who develop Rheumatoid Arthritis at younger ages also seem to get worse more quickly.
Many people with Rheumatoid Arthritis work full-time. However, after many years, about 10% of those with RA are severely disabled, and unable to do simple daily living tasks such as washing, dressing, and eating.
In the past, the average life expectancy for a patient with Rheumatoid Arthritis could be shortened by 3-7 years. Those with severe forms of RA would often die 10-15 years earlier than expected. However, as treatment for rheumatoid arthritis has improved, severe disability and life-threatening complications have decreased considerably and many people live relatively normal lives.
Possible Complications of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis, "Severe Rheumatoid Arthritis" and "Moderate Rheumatoid Arthritis" or "Mild Rheumatoid Arthritis" is not solely a disease of joint destruction. It can involve almost all organs.
A life-threatening joint complication can occur when the cervical spine (neck bones) becomes unstable as a result of Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Rheumatoid vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels) is a serious, potentially life-threatening complication of Rheumatoid Arthritis. It can lead to skin ulcerations and infections, bleeding stomach ulcers, and nerve problems that cause pain, numbness, or tingling. Vasculitis may also affect the brain, nerves, and heart, which can cause stroke, heart attack, or heart failure.
Rheumatoid Arthritis may cause the the outer lining of the heart to swell (pericarditis) and cause heart complications. Inflammation of the heart muscle, called myocarditis, can also develop. Both of these conditions can lead to congestive heart failure.
The treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis can also cause serious side effects. If you experience any side effects, immediately tell your health care provider.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if you think you have symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
Prevention of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis has no known prevention. However, it is often possible to prevent further damage of the joints with proper early treatment.
Stop smoking. Research shows that the risk of developing Rheumatoid Arthritis is nearly double for current smokers compared with non-smokers.
Because Rheumatoid Arthritis may cause eye complications in addition to pain, arthritis patients should also get regular eye exams.