Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT IS RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS?
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF RA?
WHO IS MOST LIKELY TO GET RA?
WHAT ARE THE MOST FREQUENT SYMPTOMS OF RA?
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I BELIEVE I HAVE RA SYMPTOMS?
HOW DOES MY DOCTOR DIAGNOSE RA?
RA may affect each person differently, but there are some general common signs that your rheumatologist will look for to diagnose RA. Your rheumatologist will examine your joints and ask you to move them to test your range of motion. He or she may feel your joints to see if they are swollen and feel spongy. You will also be given blood tests to look for certain signs of inflammation, X-rays or other scans to look for signs of joint inflammation or damage, and other tests, such as urinalysis. Your rheumatologist will rule out any other causes of your joint pain or swelling. To have RA, you must have synovitis (inflammation of the joint lining) in one or more joints that is not caused by some other disease.
Your rheumatologist will also use a scoring method to see if you have at least six of the 10 other common signs of RA. These include symptoms affecting multiple joints; symptoms that last six weeks or longer; having a positive test for either one or both of rheumatoid factor or anti-citrullinated protein antibodies (ACPAs); and having abnormal levels of either one or both of C-reactive protein or erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR).
HOW IS RA TREATED?
There are many drugs available to treat RA inflammation and to help reduce symptoms that may be out of control. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are the first-line treatment for RA inflammation. These include methotrexate, the most common RA treatment, as well as leflunomide, azathioprine, hydroxychloroquine, and sulfasalazine, among others. Newer targeted drugs called biologics may be used if DMARDs do not adequately control your RA disease activity. These drugs include etanercept, adalimumab, infliximab, certolizumab pegol, anakinra, abatacept, golimumab, tocilizumab, sarilumab, rituximab, tofacitinib, upadacitinib, and baricitinib. Other drugs that may be used to treat flares of RA pain or inflammation include nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), glucocorticoids, and analgesics, which only treat pain.
ARE DRUGS THE ONLY TREATMENT FOR RA?
WHAT ARE MY TREATMENT GOALS?
WILL HAVING RA AFFECT MY ABILITY TO HAVE A FAMILY?
WILL MY JOINTS BE DEFORMED IN THE LONG-TERM?
HOW DO I EXPLAIN MY RA TO OTHERS?
You will need to decide how and when to tell your employers about your RA. However, you may wish to tell them about your diagnosis if you need to take time off from work for visits to your rheumatologist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, or infusion clinic. It is important to let them know that you are working with a rheumatologist to manage and treat your RA and that you need to stick to your treatment plan in order to feel better, prevent joint damage, control your disease activity, and continue to function well.
This site is NOT considered medical advice. It contains general information about rheumatoid arthritis, and patients must not rely on the information as an alternative to advice from their health care provider. Patients should never delay seeking medical advice, discontinue medical treatment, or disregard medical advice based on information on this site.