Although synovitis is the pathological hallmark of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), many extra-articular manifestations (EMs) and comorbidities likely occur due to the complex, chronic, inflammatory, and autoimmune features of RA. Cardiovascular (CV) disease is the most common cause of death in patients with RA. Compared to the general population, patients with RA have twice the risk of myocardial infarction and up to 50% increased CV mortality risk. Severe and prolonged disease activity, genetics, and inflammation (e.g. CRP, ACPA, cytokines, matrix-degrading enzymes) play important roles in CV disease and atheroscleroticdamage. The second major cause of death in patients with RA is respiratory disease, which occurs in 30-40% of patients. RA may affect the lung interstitium, airways, and pleurae, while pulmonary vascular involvement is less frequent. Central and peripheral nervous system involvement is usually due to small vessel vasculitis, joint damage, or drug toxicity. There is also evidence that microvascular cerebral damage caused by systemic inflammation is associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. Some observational studies have hinted how Disease Modified Anti-Rheumatic Drugs and biologics could reduce the incidence of dementia. Primary gastrointestinal and renal involvements are rare and often relate to drug therapy. To minimize morbidity and mortality, physicians must manage RA disease activity (treat-to-target) and monitor risk factors and concomitant conditions (e.g. smoking cessation; weight regulation; monitoring blood pressure, lipids, thyroid hormone, folic acid and homocysteine; screening for depression, anxiety, atlantoaxial instability, and atherosclerosis). This article aims to provide an overview of the most prevalent and important EMs and comorbidities associated with RA.
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Fabiana Assunta Figus