“Most people know the major signs of rheumatoid arthritis: stiff joints, aches and pains. Patients who suffer from RA know these symptoms all too well. However, there are several other effects, that those living an arthritis-free life may be surprised to learn often accompany the disorder and its treatments.”
If you have already been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and experience any of these symptoms, you are not alone! But, it may be time to tell your doctor.
Here are some of the unexpected symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and its treatments as well as how to address them so you can return to a healthy life.
- Hair loss
Hair loss can be a side effect of the most commonly prescribed antirheumatic drug, methotrexate. In fact, this drug leads to hair loss or partial balding in over 30 percent of users because it causes cells, including hair follicles, to stop growing. If you’re unable to stop taking methotrexate, consider seeking help elsewhere. There are several medications that slow hair loss and encourage new growth such as finasteride or minoxidil. If hair loss is negatively impacting you, ask your doctor about starting a new treatment plan to address the issue.
Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation throughout the body, but when this inflammation reaches the blood vessels, a small rash can sprout up on the skin. It’s typically presented as tiny red dots and can be itchy but is certainly uncomfortable. You should be able to control the rash by managing the underlying inflammation. Talk to your doctor about corticosteroids or other anti-inflammatory drugs to rid yourself of the rash.
- Dry mouth
This inflammation can also damage saliva-producing glands in the mouth. The resulting dry mouth is not only uncomfortable, but it can also cause difficulty swallowing or chewing as well as mouth sores. While occasional dry mouth is normal, if you experience consistent dryness, you can take an over-the-counter artificial saliva product, or ask your doctor for a prescribed saliva booster. Just be sure to continue great dental hygiene: dry areas provide a great breeding ground for bacteria!
Often times, extreme fatigue begins to affect patients before other symptoms of arthritis have surfaced. It often feels like the complete exhaustion that’s associated with the flu and can be caused by inflammation or arthritis-induced anemia. If your fatigue begins to affect your daily routine, consider trying out some stress-relieving meditation to calm your thoughts and boost your energy levels throughout the day.
- Blood clots
Blood clots can be one of the more serious side effects of rheumatoid arthritis. The extra inflammation that many patients experience can cause elevated blood platelet levels and sometimes leads to the formation of blood clots in the veins of the arms and legs, otherwise known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE). If left untreated, blood clots can cause breathing difficulties or heart issues. There are several anticoagulation medications to address these concerns, including enoxaparin. In rare instances, surgery is required to treat serious blood clots. Speak with your doctor if you notice consistent and unusual pain, redness or warmth in your extremities.