When it comes to life expectancy, rheumatoid arthritis can be confusing. This is due to various other factors that can affect the condition. In this post, we will review what you need to know about rheumatoid arthritis life expectancy.
Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Reduce Life Expectancy?
Studies have shown that life expectancy with rheumatoid arthritis can shorten by an average of about 10 years. Additionally, one recent study in Arthritis & Rheumatology found that the median survival rate for healthy adults was about 82 years while the median survival rate of those with rheumatoid arthritis was about 77 years.This correlates with several factors, which we will review in the next section. However, with the arrival of new therapies and earlier diagnosis, it has been suggested that life expectancy for rheumatoid arthritis can increase, including to the equivalent lifespan to general populations.
In the next section, we will review risk factors that affect the relationship between rheumatoid arthritis and life expectancy.
What Can Affect Rheumatoid Arthritis Life Expectancy?
Does arthritis affect life expectancy? We learned above that the answer is “yes.” However, life expectancy of rheumatoid arthritis can also depend on various factors. Getting treatment for these underlying conditions can also help increase lifespans. Remember that you should always speak with your doctor to determine the best treatment methods. Below are some elements that can affect life expectancy of someone with rheumatoid arthritis.
Lung problems. People with rheumatoid arthritis may develop inflammation or scarring in their lungs, which can increase breathlessness. These can also be a side effect of certain medications.
Stomach issues. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) can often cause stomach or bowel issues, which have caused a large number of deaths. However, the development of other drugs has limited these side effects. As always, speak to your doctor about the best medications for you.
Heart disease. According to the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, heart disease accounts for around a third of deaths for those with rheumatoid arthritis.
Risk of infection. Drugs such as azathioprine, cyclophosphamide and corticosteroids are prone to increase the risk of infections.
Cancer. The rates of cancer are higher among those with rheumatoid arthritis, especially lung cancer and lymphoma.
How is Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosed?
Rheumatoid arthritis can be difficult to diagnose in its early stages due to its symptoms often being similar to other conditions. However, your doctor can take a few steps, which include:
Physical exam. This is when your doctor will check your joints for redness and swelling, as well as your reflexes and muscle strength.
Blood tests. These tests can detect rheumatoid factor, anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies, as well as erythrocyte sedimentation rates and C-reactive protein levels.
Imaging tests. X-rays, MRI, and ultrasound tests can help your doctor determine the severity of the disease.
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How is Rheumatoid Arthritis Treated?
While there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, clinical studies indicate that remission is likely if treated early. These treatment methods include:
Medications. These can include NSAIDs, steroids, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs and biologic agents.
Therapy. Physical and occupational therapists can help you identify pain points and teach you proper healing techniques or provide you with the necessary assistive devices.
- Surgery. Surgical procedures can include synovectomy, tendon repair, and joint fusion.