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Can people die from rheumatoid arthritis? Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes pain and swelling in various parts of the body, specifically the joints. A chronic condition with no one precise cause, RA has no known cure. Though RA itself is not fatal, it can lead to numerous complications that lead to a shortened lifespan. Can people die from rheumatoid arthritis? Indeed, according to research, people with RA are twice as likely to succumb to cardiovascular disease and respiratory problems, thus potentially shortening the life expectancy by 10 to 15 years. In this article, you’ll learn about can people die from rheumatoid arthritis?

Outlook for Patients Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Can people die from rheumatoid arthritis? Being diagnosed with RA doesn’t automatically increase one’s likelihood of dying due to the disease. It still depends on various factors such as age, lifestyle, and diet.

Additionally, though there is no cure for the disease itself, the symptoms of RA can be effectively managed. Through a variety of treatment options as well as DMARDs (disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs), the life of a person with RA can be successfully prolonged, the disease’s progression slowed, and the pain and distress relieved. Treatment plans have better chances of working well if they are taken early in the progression of the disease.

Life Expectancy with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Can people die from rheumatoid arthritis? Fatality of RA is most often a result of the complications that arise from inflammation caused by RA. Due to this inflammation, the person is likely to develop other medical conditions.

A person with RA has a weakened immune system as well, leading to quicker development of complications as well as fast contraction of infections. Can people die from rheumatoid arthritis? As the disease progresses, the symptoms also worsen.

Aside from the weakened immune system, the chronic inflammation caused by RA has serious health consequences too; the inflammation can cause damage to otherwise healthy cells, tissues, and organs, which can lead to life-threatening complications if left unchecked.

Can people die from rheumatoid arthritis? Furthermore, having RA earlier in life would mean that you would have to live with it longer than someone who developed it later on. The longer you live with the disease, the higher the risks are of you developing other complications that lead to a shortened lifespan.

Life Expectancy for Rheumatoid Arthritis in Men and Women

Women are likelier to develop RA than men, with their chances almost thrice over that of men’s. Additionally, symptoms of RA in women tend to be more severe. The progression of the disease in women are also likely to progress aggressively, which means there are higher risks of developing life-threatening complications.

On the other hand, men with or without RA are likelier to develop cardiovascular diseases, which can manifest much worse should they be diagnosed with RA as well.

Complications of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Permanent joint damage can result from the progression of RA, but it is not the only complication to watch out for.

Heart Disease

RA can inflame and damage the arteries and the muscles of the heart. There is also a risk of buildup of plaque in the arteries, leading to atherosclerosis, which can then result to higher chances of heart attack and stroke. Indeed, according to the Arthritis Foundation, RA is associated with almost twice the risk of having ischemic stroke and thrice the risk of deep vein thrombosis, or blood clotting in the veins of the legs. There is also four times higher risk of having a grave and critical pulmonary embolism.

Respiratory Disease

Aside from cardiovascular conditions, people with RA are also likely to develop respiratory diseases. This includes developing nodules in the lungs. There is also the risk of accumulation of fluid in the lung tissue, as well as developing blockages in the small airways of the lungs.

Can people die from rheumatoid arthritis? What’s more, there is the possibility of having bronchiectasis and interstitial lung disease, which affects 1 in 10 people diagnosed with RA. Interstitial lung disease makes breathing difficult or nigh near impossible, as it results from the excessive inflammation in the lung tissue, caused by an overactive immune system attacking the body itself. The inflammation leads to scarring in the lung tissue, and in severe cases, a lung transplant may be required.

Infections and Other Complications

Due to a weakened immune system, people with RA are more susceptible to developing severe infections and other diseases. Flu, cough, and colds are some of the diseases that can be easily contracted with a weakened immune system. 

Aside from these, there is also risk of developing eye inflammation, osteoporosis, and rheumatoid vasculitis, which is inflammation in the blood vessels.

In Summary

Can people die from rheumatoid arthritis? Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease, has no known cure. Though it by itself is not fatal, it can lead to potentially life-threatening health complications. Predicting the outlook for RA can be a bit difficult as it relies on a variety of factors such as age and how long the person has been living with RA.

To help manage the disease, working directly with a physician is recommended. Lifestyle changes are also suggested, such as stopping smoking and eating a well-balanced diet.

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