Something that many people don't realize about autoimmune arthritis is that it isn't picky where it will take up shop during a flare. Technically, it can affect even non-articular organs, like your heart and lungs, but it has a preference for joints. Any joint will do. Of course autoimmune arthritis affects the joints that are commonly attacked by osteoarthritis, like knees, hips, and hands, but it can also manifest itself in joints that are more exotic. It can manifest in joints most people don't know even exist.
Here are some out-of-the-way joints that can be affected by autoimmune arthritis:
Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ).
|Anatomy of TMJ. Source.|
|Anatomy of the Rib Cage. (It swells where blue meets yellow). Source.|
Generally, we tend to think of our rib-cage as being a pretty solid and immobile, but there are actually several joints that help facilitate twisting, turning, and the in-and-out motions necessary for breathing. In fact, these are some of the most-used joints in the human body which never get a break from moving since we must continue breathing throughout the night, while most joints get a chance to rest. Unfortunately, it's a playground for autoimmune arthritis. Inflammation of the sternocostal joints is called Tietze Syndrome. (When inflammation isn't remarkable, the term costochondritis is often used). Sufferers experience extreme pain and difficulty breathing, wearing a bra, or moving their torsos.
|Anatomy of the Human Ear. Source|
|Anatomy of the Throat. Source.|
The process of speaking takes places when we make our vocal chords vibrate together. What facilitates this vibration? You guessed it, a joint. The cricoarytenoid joint, to be specific. In a healthy throat, the cricoarytenoid joint helps make the vocal cords move up, down, and together, which is what allows us to change the pitch in our voice. When the joint is attacked by autoimmune arthritis, it inhibits these motions, and can cause hoarseness, difficulty breathing, and pain. Kelly Young has a great article about cricoarytenoid arthritis over at her website, RA Warrior.
Look at how many vital life processes, like breathing and eating, are made difficult and painful due to autoimmune arthritis.