Complications of Rheumatoid Arthritis: Bursitis

Are you aware that inside your body there are over 150 fluid filled sacs called bursae? These helpful sacs are filled with a lubricating substance that provides a cushion between bone, skin, muscle or tendons as they move across each other. If a bursa becomes inflamed due to an underlying illness such as rheumatoid arthritis, it fills with too much fluid, and becomes very painful. This is the condition known as Bursitis.

Symptoms of Bursitis

Even though there are a large number of bursa sacs in the human body, usually the ones that are most often affected are the elbows, shoulders, knees, hips, and Achilles tendon. Mild to severe pain is the foremost symptom. The area of skin above the bursa may be warm. You may notice stiffness or a decrease in the range of motion. If the hip joint is affected, walking, or laying down on that side may be difficult and painful. If the bursitis is accompanied by fever, redness or swelling, it may be due to an infection and you should receive medical attention.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your physician will be able to diagnose a case of bursitis by a physical exam. He may also take x-rays to rule out other things that may be causing the pain. In some cases, the doctor may want to examine the fluid from the bursal sac and will withdraw it by needle.

Treatment can vary depending on the severity of pain, and how well the bursitis responds and dissipates. Rest and ice are generally the first course of action in typical bursitis cases. However, in the case of RA sufferers who develop bursitis as a complication of their joints being enlarged, reducing inflammation in the affected joints would be a wise course of action. This may be accomplished by taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Steroid injections are sometimes administered into the bothersome bursa. In very rare instances, when all other treatments have failed, removing the bursal sac surgically (known as a bursectomy) is recommended and necessary.

An Alternative Option

The treatment options explained above may take away the inflammation, but they may leave you dealing with side effects. Without treating the underlying problem (the RA) you are also facing the possibility that the bursitis may return. Rheumatoid arthritis patients may want to look into alternative solutions that may help them to avoid complications, such as bursitis.



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