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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year!

 

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! I hope if your home is snow covered you’re staying warm.

I took this photo in Telluride last February. It was fun to watch the skiers, but I felt a longing for the life I used to live. The one before autoimmune diseases when I could run and play.

As the new year rolled around, I decided to focus on the good things in my life instead of the changes. You see, I’m very blessed. In spite of limitations and disabilities that are frustrating, I have a good, full life.

So often I focus on what I don’t have. For me, it’s rarely the beautiful new home, the new car, diamonds, etc. I often focus on the abilities I no longer have. Before I got sick, I earned my black belt in Tae Kwon Do. When I’m having a bad day, I tend to focus on what might have been had I gotten sick.

I loved sparring and won several tournaments, but I started getting ill right before I earned my black belt. By the time I received it, I could no longer compete. In fact, I could no longer practice. It caused too much pain.

This year, however, I plan to focus on my abilities. What I can accomplish in spite of my disability. My life has changed, but I still have a good, blessed life. It’s time to focus on the blessings. I have a good life and instead of lamenting what might have been, I want to focus on what is.

Will you join me in focusing on what you can do this year? I would love to hear your stories and how you’re changing your focus and making the this year the best ever!

Depression and Suicidal Thoughts

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Depression and Suicidal Thoughts

 

With the recent death of actor Robin Williams, I felt it was important to interrupt my series on Rheumatoid Arthritis to talk about depression.

Studies show between 15 and 60% of people dealing with chronic illness, experience clinical depression. However, I believe at different times in the course of the disease, most people who deal with chronic illness and autoimmune diseases face some degree of depression. The diseases attack the body and once we learn what our “new normal” is for life, something changes, and we must accept a revised version of normal. This can lead to depression.

Depression is not a sign of weakness. Depression is not a sign you don’t have enough faith in God. Depression is not something you just push through and deal with.

Depression is a very serious sign that something is wrong and you need help to deal with it. In our “pull yourself up by the bootstraps world” we have difficulty understanding this insidious thief. It robs our joy, and steals our happiness, yet many times we don’t understand why.

Dealing with chronic illness day in day out is wearisome. Fatigue, coupled with pain, and flu-like symptoms takes a toll on the body and mind. If you’re experiencing depression symptoms along with your disease symptoms, please do not ignore them.

Symptoms of Depression Include:
  • Feeling sad, empty
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Loss of interest
  • Increased fatigue
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Fixating on past failures
  • Insomnia
  • Sleeping too much
  • Persistent anxiety
  • Overeating or loss of appetite
  • Frequent thoughts of death
  • Suicide attempts
Warning Signs of Suicide in Depressed Persons:
  • A sudden switch from being sad to suddenly calm or even happy
  • Frequently talking or thinking about death
  • Depression that worsenings
  • Putting affairs in order
  • Tempting fate by risky behavior
  • Losing interest in things the person once cared for
  • Saying things like “It would be better if I weren’t here” or wanting out
  • Making comments about feeling worthless, or hopeless
  • Visiting those the person cares about

Depression must be taken very seriously. The risk of suicide with depression is high and anyone who expresses suicidal thoughts should be taken seriously. Call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or the Deaf hotline at 1-800-799-4TTY (1-800-799-4889).

 

References:

http://www.lupus.org/answers/entry/can-lupus-cause-depression

http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/detecting-depression

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/basics/symptoms/con-20032977