03/29/2012 12:53 pm ET Updated Apr 30, 2012

Adrienne Rich, Influential Writer And Poet, Dies Of Complications From Rheumatoid Arthritis

Adrienne Rich, the influential feminist poet and writer, died Tuesday at age 82 from complications of rheumatoid arthritis, according to news reports.

The New York Times reported that Rich had the medical condition for much of her adulthood.

While there have been no reports of Rich's specific complications, common complications from rheumatoid arthritis include osteoporosis, heart troubles, lung disease and carpal tunnel syndrome, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Osteoporosis can occur because the arthritis, as well as the medications to treat the arthritis, can weaken bones, while heart problems can occur because arthritis increases the risk of hardened arteries. Arthritis also increases the risk of lung scarring and inflammation, which can lead to lung disease, the Mayo Clinic reported.

Rheumatoid arthritis usually develops in middle age, more commonly in women, though anyone of any age can have the condition, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The condition usually starts with mild symptoms, such as joint pain or stiffness. However, if the symptoms progress, the joints may not be able to move and may deform, the NIH reported. Other symptoms include numbness, trouble sleeping, chest pain, dry eye or mouth, eye burning and skin nodules.

Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are similar in that they both cause joint pain, but they are caused by different things and are treated differently. Osteoarthritis is caused by wear and tear, WebMD reported, while rheumatoid arthritis is actually an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the healthy tissue of the joints.

About 50 million people in the U.S. have some form of arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but there are many drugs that can alleviate symptoms and slow progression of the condition, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Drugs can help a person to remain mobile, lower inflammation from the disease and stop bone and ligament damage from occurring.

According to Health.com, other famous people who had rheumatoid arthritis include the French painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir and actor James Coburn. Actress Lucille Ball also had a rheumatoid arthritis-like disease, though her diagnosis has been questioned.