Rheumatoid Disease Morbidity and Mortality Part One

Rheumatoid Disease, also known as Rheumatoid Arthritis, carries with it a myriad of symptoms, comorbidities, and increased mortality rate.

Rheumatoid Disease Ribbon

In a Facebook group, someone recently commented that Rheumatoid Disease is a death sentence. As in most social media, people jumped on her and blasted her for saying it’s a death sentence. However, it can be. Most of the time it’s not, but many of the complications are serious, even life-threatening, and it’s important to not ignore these. I’m going to focus on the lung complications for this post. In later posts, I will focus on other body systems and serious complications.

Lungs

Lung Disease

Several lung conditions occur in Rheumatoid Disease. Most are caused by inflammation including pleuritis, pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary rheumatoid nodules, and interstitial lung disease.1https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/symptoms/lung-diseases-and-conditions/

Pleuritis

Pleuritis or pleurisy  – the pleura, or the sac surrounding the lungs, becomes inflamed, and often fluid builds up in this sac – pleural effusion. The symptoms of pleurisy include pain with respiration. A pleural effusion can cause shortness of breath including pain on breathing. A large pleural effusion can be an emergency.2https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/expert-answers/rheumatoid-arthritis/FAQ-20058245

While treatable, complications may arise from a pulmonary effusion. If not treated early, it can cause permanent scarring of the lungs.

If you have symptoms of pleural effusion, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. One study has shown that as many as fifteen percent of people admitted with a pleural effusion die within thirty days of admission.3https://www.healthline.com/health/pleural-effusion

Pulmonary Rheumatoid Nodules

Pulmonary Rheumatoid Nodules are small lumps. They can also develop in other areas of the body and will be addressed more in-depth in a separate post. They usually have no signs and symptoms however they may rupture and cause a collapsed lung.4https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/expert-answers/rheumatoid-arthritis/FAQ-20058245

Interstitial Lung Disease

ILD, or interstitial lung disease, is a group of disorders that cause inflammation and scarring when the immune system attacks the lungs. It’s hard to diagnose because the symptoms of a dry cough and shortness of breath don’t show up until extensive damage is done. It’s estimated that one in ten people with Rheumatoid Disease will develop interstitial lung disease.

Those who are diagnosed and treated early may be put on the waiting list for a lung transplant sooner.

ILD is difficult to diagnose and difficult to treat. Once it’s diagnosed, the life expectancy is 2.6 years.5http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/rheumatoid-arthritis/articles/lung-disease-rheumatoid-arthritis.php

While the lung complications aren’t common, they do happen. It’s important to know and recognize the symptoms. The earlier lung complications are treated, the better the outcome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autoimmune Life

What’s it like to live the Autoimmune Life?

Some days living with an autoimmune disease isn’t so difficult. I can still have a life. Maybe I can’t hike through the Big Bend, raft down the Frio or climb the hills of the Texas Hill Country, but on those rare days, I feel almost normal. Almost. I can go to dinner with friends, do a little shopping, or have family and friends over.

Then a flare hits.

Flu-like symptoms – Fever ranging from 99 to 101. Indescribable fatigue worse than when I worked all day and studied all night during my college years. Waking up ever more tired than when I went to bed. Exhaustion without sleep. When I do sleep, I wake even more tired than I was before I went to bed.

Pain radiating from hot, swollen joints that feel as though a jackhammer is inside each one trying to destroy it. As the inflammation worsens, the use of joints becomes more limited. Pleurisy that hurts with every breath can also join the myriad of symptoms.

During flares, my husband helps me dress and undress. Sometimes he helps me off the toilet and out of my chair.

Then I start prednisone. It causes mood swings, hot flashes, difficulty sleeping, sweet cravings, and a generally crazy feeling. But it helps the symptoms. It interferes with sleep but does decrease the pain, fever, and other inflammatory symptoms.

While I always have symptoms, they are much worse when I’m flaring. The time-span between flares varies. Sometimes I got from one flare to another.

Despite the disability of living with an autoimmune disease or multiple autoimmune diseases in my case, I do have a blessed life. While I can’t do many of the things I would like, and I frequently have to rest or nap during the day, I have a family who loves me.