Early Death and Rheumatoid Arthritis

TV personality Deborah Norville said that her mother died prematurely “from Rheumatoid Arthritis.”

With all due respect to Ms Norville, no one dies from RA.  Like osteoarthritis and many other non-fatal conditions among the genetically susceptible (e.g., Down’s Syndrome, mental illnesses), RA is more a disorder and less a disease.

All of us who live with the condition will die ‘with RA’ just as we will die ‘with a liver’, ‘with a brain’, ‘with fingernails.’ RA is not in the same mortality category as diabetes or stroke, leading causes of death listed on death certificates.

Nevertheless, Rheumatoid Arthritis can be a contributing factor to death from other causes, generally inflammation-related, but one is hard pressed to find any records listing RA as a cause of death by itself.  In this list of annual causes of mortality, RA is conspicuously absent.

Any number of studies have concluded that those of us with Rheumatoid Arthritis are doomed to die several years before we would otherwise, usually, they say, from cardiovascular disease (CVD). In vanishingly rare instances inflammation resulting from the disease attacks a vital organ like the heart and the patient may die.   Even then the cause of death is inflammation officially coded, for example, as ‘pericarditis,’ not Rheumatoid Arthritis.

It’s clear that a major problem is inflammation. But it’s not the only problem. The other big cause of death for us is the drugs we take, both over the counter and prescription.

Continue reading “Early Death and Rheumatoid Arthritis”