"Patients really need to be in touch with their physician so they can be screened and watch out for these other things (heart problems)," said Ghaw.
While both conditions' symptoms include painfully inflamed joints and possibly fever, lupus also causes skin rashes. Onset of lupus often occurs in late teens or early adulthood, but rheumatoid arthritis tends to start later, between the ages of 30 and 50, according to the Arthritis Foundation. A distinct but linked form of rheumatoid arthritis affects children.
Those with rheumatoid arthritis usually have a normal lifespan, but lupus can shorten people's lives because it often affects kidney function and other important organs, said Ghaw.
To learn more about atrial fibrillation, visit the American Heart Association.
SOURCES: Olivia Ghaw, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, rheumatology, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York City; Abhishek Deshmukh, M.D., cardiology fellow, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Medical Center, Little Rock, Ark.; Heart Rhythm Society presentation, abstract, May 6, 2011
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