Ask me Anything – Is this related to my RA?

This part of our ask me anything series is all about “Is this related to my RA?” We received many questions if some symptoms were associated with RA and while we cannot provide medical advice via the internet (for our members safety) Here are some of our moderator’s answers to some of the questions you had:

RA and strange symptoms

Can RA cause a person to have random trouble swallowing?

Kelly Mack:
RA can cause swallowing problems due to inflammation in the throat. However, this is an issue to bring up with your doctor and keep track to see when it occurs and how often. Another autoimmune disease, Sjogren’s, can also cause swallowing problems. Some people with RA have both these conditions. Or swallowing problems could be something separate entirely. It’s a good idea to note when it happens and what it feels like, and speak with your doctor about this symptom in order to better understand and develop coping mechanisms. In my case, I sometimes have swallowing difficulty and find it helps to drink some extra fluids to lubricate my throat before eating.

I get winded so easily. Sometimes I can’t speak an entire sentence because I’ve run out of air and I get a tight sensation on my left chest area. Not sure if this is caused by meds or RA?

Kelly Mack:
This sounds like it could be the symptoms of a heart attack. Please call your doctor or get emergency care to get this checked out as soon as possible. If the symptoms continue, consult with your rheumatologist to adjust your medications. If you ever have chest pain or tightness or cannot catch your breathe, call 911 or go to the emergency room for immediate assistance.

Tamara Haag:
This is definitely something to bring up with your doctor. While there are many underlying conditions that can cause shortness of breath and tightness in one’s chest, some of these can be serious and require treatment. In addition, RA can in rare cases impact the heart and/or lungs.

I have battled recurrent bronchitis, which I’m susceptible to because of being on immunosuppressant RA treatment. The immunosuppressants keep my RA at bay, but also weaken my immune system’s ability to fight bacteria and viruses that can lead to bronchitis. Due to this, I see a pulmonologist/allergist in addition to my rheumatologist. When I had symptoms similar to the ones you are speaking of, I was referred to the Emergency Room to get tests to insure that my symptoms were indeed solely from the bronchitis and not something more serious. It was scary having that series of tests, but after I heard all of the the things the doctors ruled out by performing them I was very grateful I’d had the tests done; had I tested/screened positive for any of the things they looked for, I would have wanted early treatment.

When one has a chronic condition like RA it is difficult to determine which symptoms to be concerned about and which ones to just “deal with” the way we deal with some level of discomfort and/or fatigue every day. However, my doctors made it clear to me that when it comes to shortness of breath or tightness in the chest, I am to make my doctors aware of those symptoms immediately.

Is soft tissue involvement common?

Kelly Mack:
Soft tissue involvement with RA is very common. As the disease attacks the joints, soft tissues can also be damaged during this process. Additionally, with joint damage the soft tissues may be weakened or tighten as they try to compensate within the joint area. It’s important to maintain strength with exercise and taking care of the soft tissues as much as possible. Additionally, organs can sometimes be attacked by the disease (such as the eyes), so having regular checkups with a general practitioner and maintaining overall health is important when living with RA.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms we encourage you to speak to your helathcare provider.

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