People do not die of rheumatoid arthritis but complications may occur which are especially serious for the arthritic patient. Troubles with the lungs including pneumonia, damage to the heart and secondary infections are a threat.
Rheumatoid arthritis may be especially serious for children because of deformities that persist throughout life. A severe form of rheumatoid arthritis in childhood is known as “Still’s disease.” Another form of rheumatoid arthritis is associated with psoriasis, and there are arthritic manifestations that affect women in the menopause.
Rheumatoid arthritis affecting the spine is a crippling condition responsible for much disability. This condition usually occurs in men rather than in women. Pains in the back, soreness on bending over, painful buttocks, and shooting pains in the sciatic nerve area are accompaniments. With spasms of the spinal muscles comes a tendency to avoid movement and in some instances the stiff-poker spine develops. The X-ray reveals changes in the spine as the condition progresses, but early in the disease nothing significant may be observed. These are the patients who are helped by sleeping in a bed with a firm mattress. Hot, wet packs help to relieve the spasm of the muscles. X-ray treatments may also help these patients.
Degenerative joint disease hits people past middle age. The changes may be part of the aging process and associated with injury. The condition occurs all over the world and particularly in certain occupations such as porters, those who stand long at work, scrub-women and janitors. In diagnosis of these cases X-ray is of great importance. Use of salicylates for relief, heat, mild massage and liniments are reported beneficial in securing relief for those with degenerative arthritis.