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AskMe: We Asked an Expert All of Your Questions About Rheumatoid Arthritis

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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a complex condition, which can make the ways it manifests feel unexpected or confusing.  Although many people believe that rheumatoid arthritis only affects the joints, it can also affect other organs, and the ways that symptoms present can vary widely.  We spoke with Dr. Daniel Solomon, MD, MPH, and he answered questions from our Mighty community members about rheumatoid arthritis.  Here are answers to some of your most pressing RA questions.

Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.

Q: How does rheumatoid arthritis affect a patient’s kidneys and/or pancreas?

Solomon: In patients with severe or untreated rheumatoid arthritis, there can be a buildup of amyloid, which can impact the kidneys and in rare cases, the pancreas. Some medications for RA, such as NSAIDs, can impact the kidneys. However, pancreatic involvement with RA is very rare.

Q: What is the relationship between weather and increased rheumatoid arthritis symptoms?

Solomon: Many patients describe that arthritis symptoms are worse during certain types of weather, but research on this topic has not been conclusive.

Q: How long should a patient give a new rheumatoid arthritis medication before deeming it helpful or unhelpful?

Solomon: It depends on the medicine. This is a perfect question for the prescribing clinician as it varies greatly based on the prescriber’s treatment plan.

Q: How does rheumatoid arthritis progress or worsen as a person ages? Is it different if they have other comorbid conditions?

Solomon: Inflammatory arthritis that is not completely treated will cause cartilage degeneration — the same process that leads to osteoarthritis (OA). Thus, many patients with RA will develop OA later on in life. RA can also impact other parts of the body, such as the lungs and the blood vessels in the heart and brain. Many studies find that RA has an impact on lung function and … cardiac function [in] the long-term.

Thank you to Daniel Solomon, MD, MPH
Matthew H. Liang Distinguished Chair
Chief, Section of Clinical Sciences
Professor of Medicine
Division of Rheumatology
Division of Pharmacoepidemiology
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Harvard Medical School
Editor in Chief, Arthritis & Rheumatology

If you’re living with rheumatoid arthritis and want to connect with others with similar experiences, join a community on The Mighty:

Getty image by Peter Schreiber Media.

Originally published: October 28, 2021
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