Comorbid Conditions in Inflammatory Arthritis

Learn about conditions that commonly occur with arthritis, and the importance of managing them.

People with arthritis often have other medical conditions as well. When two diseases occur together, they are called comorbidities. Some of these conditions can worsen pain, while others make it harder to manage the disease. Because comorbidities can cause challenges for overall health and quality of life, it makes a good pain management plan even more important. 

These are just a few of the pain-related conditions that may be more common in people with arthritis:

Heart Disease

People with inflammatory forms of arthritis are up to two times as likely to develop heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease than people without inflammatory arthritis. Inflammation can narrow the blood vessels, making it more difficult for blood to reach the heart. When the heart muscle doesn’t get enough oxygen-rich blood, you can have chest pain, called angina.

In men, angina may feel like something is pressing on or squeezing their chest or arms. Women are more likely to feel sharp pain in the chest. They may also have pain in their back, abdomen, neck, jaw or throat. For men, the pain tends to get worse when they are up and active, while women may have pain while resting. For both men and women, pain may become worse or more frequent as heart disease progresses.

Diabetic Neuropathy

People with inflammatory forms of arthritis are about 1.5 time more likely to have diabetes than those without arthritis. About 60–70% of people with diabetes have some form of neuropathy, or nerve damage. The most common type is peripheral neuropathy. Symptoms such as, numbness, tingling, burning and cramping, start in the legs and feet and move on to the hands and arms. These symptoms may be worse at night.


In this condition, old bone breaks down faster than new bone can be built. This causes bones to become brittle and break easily. People with inflammatory arthritis have a greater risk of osteoporosis because of inflammation and some of the drugs used to treat it (e.g. corticosteroids). While osteoporosis itself does not cause symptoms, bone fractures that may result from it can be quite painful.

Lung Disease 

Several conditions of the lungs, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), are more common in people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) than in the general population. COPD refers to a pair of conditions – emphysema and chronic bronchitis – that reduce the flow of air into and out of the lungs. Although COPD doesn’t cause pain directly, people with the condition may experience chest pain due to pressure in the lungs or bouts of coughing that can stress chest muscles or may even break a rib. Also, struggling to breathe can cause anxiety, which may intensify pain elsewhere in the body.

Other Types of Comorbidities

Arthritis is linked to or may be the cause of many other conditions, such as vision issues, hearing loss and depression. It’s important to educate yourself on arthritis comorbidities so you can watch out for symptoms and seek guidance from your doctor if needed. 


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