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Can Arthritis Kill You?

Can Arthritis Kill You?


Arthritis itself is not fatal, but its complications can be.

Arthritis is a serious disease.   Arthritis and rheumatic conditions and their complications account for 44 million hospital visits and nearly 9,500 deaths each year. [1] This debilitating disease affects the joints and causes pain, swelling, and stiffness. Certain forms of arthritis, namely rheumatoid arthritis, causes irreversible joint damage that affects your mobility and your overall health. In general, arthritis will not kill you. However, certain types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, and common arthritis treatments can increase your risk of mortality.

How Rheumatoid Arthritis Affects Mortality

Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive autoimmune disease that gets worse over time, even with medication. There is no cure for the disease. Rheumatoid arthritis complications account for 22 percent of all arthritis or rheumatic-related deaths. A rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis makes you two times more likely to die than someone of the same age without the disease. [2]

This painful disease can attack your spinal cord and lungs, increase your risk of heart disease and heart attack, and increase your risk of cancer. There are several lesser-known rheumatoid arthritis complications, usually involving the nerves, blood vessels and other vital organs that can shorten your lifespan and lead to an early death.  [3]

How Arthritis Medication Affects Mortality

Common medications that are prescribed for arthritis pain can increase mortality risk. There is scientific evidence that non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs(NSAIDS), such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen, can cause significant damage to the renal and gastrointestinal systems. NSAIDS reduce arthritis pain by inhibiting your body’s inflammatory process, platelet functioning and other normal and essential bodily functions. In the short-term, NSAIDS are effective, but relying on NSAIDS for extending periods of time and inhibiting normal bodily functions for long periods of time causes significant damage to your body.  [4]


Long-term use of arthritis medication accelerates cartilage damage, impairs kidney functioning, causes stomach ulcers and liver damage. Extended use of NSAIDS can also impair the function of white blood cells that are responsible for fighting off infectious diseases. As a result, arthritis medication can increase your risk of dying from infections and viruses that most people can fight on their own or with common antibiotics.




[1] Arthritis Foundation
10 Facts about Arthritis

[2] Arthritis Foundation
Rheumatoid Arthritis Fact Sheet

Rheumatoid Arthritis Prognosis

[4] Lee University
Pain Killers Might Kill You

Rice University:

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
Fast Facts About Rheumatoid Arthritis



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