Expert Q&A

Does RA Cause Hoarseness?

Q. I have rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and whenever I have a particularly bad flare, my voice becomes very raspy. Sometimes my throat is so swollen that I actually lose my voice. Could my RA be to blame?

A. Hoarseness can indeed be related to your RA. Although many people aren't aware of it, the throat contains cartilage that can become inflamed during a flare. The swelling can affect your voice and even impair your breathing. Mention this symptom to your rheumatologist, and in the meantime, steer clear of smoky areas and try not to strain your voice.

—Christopher R. Morris, MD, rheumatologist, Arthritis Associates, Kingsport, TN

Can UV Rays Ease RA Pain?

Q. My mother-in-law was recently diagnosed with RA. She heard from a friend that tanning beds might help soothe joint pain. Is that really true?

A. There is no evidence whatsoever that tanning beds have a favorable effect on RA symptoms. In fact, depending on what medications you're taking, your condition may actually be worsened when you're exposed to UV rays. Besides, certain RA medications may increase the risk of skin cancer, so tell your mother-in-law to shun tanning salons and wear sunscreen when she's outdoors.

—Christopher R. Morris, MD

Noisy Joints!

Q. I've had RA for several years now. Recently I've noticed that whenever I have a flare, my joints creak and crack. It's loud and sometimes embarrassing, but I'm not in any more pain than usual. Should I be concerned?

A. The cracking sound is related to the rapid shift of fluid within the joint from one space to another and also to changes within the joint cartilage. During flares, the amount of fluid in the joint space increases; as you move, the snapping of irregular, inflamed tissues can create those cracking and popping sounds. Although it can be annoying, it's not something to worry about. The best way to put a lid on the noise is to continue to keep RA under control with medication and lifestyle changes.

—Christopher R. Morris, MD

Published March 2012

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