Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Neck FAQ

Question:

I've heard that my life expectancy is less just because I have rheumatoid arthritis. Is this true? Can you explain the connection?

Answer:

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects the joints but it also affects many other systems in the body. Half of all patients with RA become disabled. This happens in the first 10 years and adds to the risk of an earlier death.

The biggest risk factor is the presence of RA in the cervical spine (neck). Joint changes and collapse of the bones can cause a condition called cervical myelopathy.

Pressure on the spinal cord from cervical myelopathy can cause severe problems. Studies from autopies show sudden death occurs in as many as 10 percent of patients with RA affecting the cervical spine.

David H. Kim, MD, and Alan S. Hilibrand, MD. Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Cervical Spine. In Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. November 2005. Vol. 13. No. 7. Pp. 463-474.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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