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Patients with arthritis are often at a risk for developing other diseases. This article outlines 9 conditions that are related to arthritis.

Arthritis is a common condition in which patients experience swelling, pain and inflammation of their joints. Arthritis can affect several different types of joints including, but not limited to, hands, knees, hips and ankles. The most common subtypes of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Unfortunately, there is no cure for the disease, though there are several treatments that can treat patients’ symptoms.

Some people with arthritis develop comorbidities related to their arthritis. 

What is a comorbidity?

Comorbidity refers to a disease or condition that develops in patients who already have another disease at the same time. Comorbidities tend to be chronic or long-term. Arthritis has been shown to be common in patients with other chronic conditions. Studies have shown that patients with certain subtypes of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, are at greater risk of developing comorbidities.

Statistics show that in the United States, 22.7 percent of adults have arthritis. However, arthritis is even more common in patients with some form of chronic disease. In a study conducted from 2013 to 2015, researchers found that...

  • 31 percent of people who were obese
  • 47 percent of people with diabetes
  • and 49 percent of people who had heart disease

...also had arthritis.

After adjusting for age, researchers found that people who were obese, had diabetes or heart disease had a 1.5, 1.7 and 1.9-fold higher likelihood of having arthritis compared to people that did not have these comorbidities. Thus, it is important to monitor patients with arthritis for these serious comorbidities. These are the following nine conditions that are related to arthritis.

1. Heart disease

People with heart disease are much more likely to also have arthritis. The heart diseases that are comorbid in patients with arthritis include:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeats)
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart failure
  • Atherosclerosis (plaque in the arteries)

Unfortunately, having heart disease and arthritis at the same time can worsen both conditions. One of the important things that doctors always prescribe to patients with heart disease is to exercise. However, patients that have both these diseases are much less likely to exercise compared to patients that have only one of these conditions or neither condition. This is because having both of these conditions can make it hard to do physical activity. For example, having arthritis of the hips or the knee can make it difficult for some patients to do cardiovascular exercises, such as running and biking. However, doing these exercises actually helps patients with arthritis improve their condition.

The benefits of cardiovascular exercise are essential for patients with heart disease as it helps lower blood pressure, improve physical function and lowers cholesterol. Similarly, there are several benefits for patients with arthritis. Therefore, if you have both arthritis and heart disease, try your best to continue to exercise. Swimming is a great way to exercise for both diseases.

2. Obesity

As mentioned above, people that are obese are more likely to develop arthritis. Unfortunately, being obese makes your arthritis much worse, as extra weight on your body adds extra stress on your joints. Obesity also prevents you from being physical active to the extent that you could otherwise be. As physical exercise is important as a treatment for arthritis, being obese can significantly negatively impact your joint functioning.

3. Diabetes

Patients with diabetes are almost two-fold as likely to have arthritis compared to patients without diabetes.

4. Depression and anxiety

Patients with arthritis are at a higher risk of developing depression and anxiety, which can often be overlooked as a diagnosis in patients. Thus, many patients are underdiagnosed and don’t receive appropriate mental health treatment. Depression and anxiety can be treated in a number of ways including with anti-depressants and cognitive behavioral therapy. It is important to monitor for signs and symptoms of depression in patients with arthritis.

5. Sleep problems or Insomnia

Many people with arthritis find that they have trouble sleeping because their joint pain keeps them up at night. This can be helped through the use of sleep aids, such as melatonin or teas that help you go to sleep. Sleep problems also cause fatigue. Therefore, it is important for patients with insomnia to get help for sleep.

6. Eye conditions

Arthritis is an inflammatory condition that affects your joints. When there is inflammation present in the body, it can also affect other organs, which include the eyes. Inflammation in eyes affects a certain subset of patients with arthritis and can damage your vision. Monitor your eyes for any vision changes if you have arthritis.

7. Hearing loss

Some studies indicate that patient with rheumatoid arthritis are at a greater risk for developing hearing loss.

8. Kidney disease

Some studies suggest that patients with arthritis are at a greater risk for developing kidney disease. This could also be attributed to systemic inflammation.

9. Skin disease

There are several skin conditions that commonly affect patients with arthritis. These include:

  • Red or purplish rash across checks of the nose in lupus patients
  • Scaly skin (particularly in patients with psoriasis)
  • Increased sun sensitivity
  • Cold or discolored fingers or toes
  • Skin sores
  • Unusual bruising

  • Gabriel, Sherine E., Cynthia S. Crowson, and W. Michael O'Fallon. "Comorbidity in arthritis." The Journal of rheumatology 26.11 (1999): 2475-2479.
  • Michaud, Kaleb, and Frederick Wolfe. "Comorbidities in rheumatoid arthritis." Best practice & research Clinical rheumatology 21.5 (2007): 885-906.
  • Escalante, Agustín, Roy W. Haas, and Inmaculada del Rincón. "Paradoxical effect of body mass index on survival in rheumatoid arthritis: role of comorbidity and systemic inflammation." Archives of internal medicine 165.14 (2005): 1624-1629.
  • Photo courtesy of SteadyHealth

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