How does rheumatoid arthritis affect you?
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA for short) is an autoimmune disease – the body mistakenly attacks itself, causing swelling and pain (inflammation) in the joints. Symptoms come and go, but over time it can damage the joints and be disabling. For some people, RA can also affect other organs in the body.
Clinical research is growing our understanding of RA and how to treat it. Read on to learn more.
If you are living with rheumatoid arthritis, we would like to hear from you.
- Please tell us about your experience living with RA in our brief online survey.
- At the end of the survey, you can sign up to be considered for an upcoming clinical trial.
- We also invite you to join our Arthritis Team online patient community and connect with others about the condition.
Thank you for sharing with us.
RA can be difficult to diagnose. Its symptoms are similar to other diseases and conditions. Doctors may use the following methods to reach a diagnosis and rule out other potential problems:
- Medical history
- Physical examination
- Blood tests, including:
- Erythrocyte sedimentation test (EST), which measures the rate red blood cells called erythrocytes fall to the bottom of a test tube, to check how much inflammation is present
- C-reactive protein (CRP), a test to determine if inflammation is present in the body
- Full blood count, used to find out if any problems such as anemia may be present in the blood, which could suggest rheumatic disease
- Rheumatoid factor, which is used to determine if an antibody is present in your blood; this antibody is present in about 80% of people with rheumatoid disease
- X-rays of the bone or images of the soft tissues in the joint
Causes & Symptoms
RA is an autoimmune disorder which causes the body’s immune system to mistakenly attack the body’s own tissues. The cause for this is not known. More women than men have it, although anyone can get it. It often starts in middle age, but children and young people have it also.
Signs and symptoms of RA include:
- Joint pain, swelling and stiffness, often in the fingers and hands
- Swollen joints on both sides of the body, such as both the right and left wrists
- Feeling tired and having low energy
- Pain and stiffness lasting more than 30 minutes in the morning after a long rest
These symptoms continue or worsen over several years. Multiple joints and other organs in the body can also be affected. Symptoms flare up (worsen) and go away over time, but the disease is always there.
The goals of treatment for RA are to reduce pain and swelling, slow or stop joint damage, reduce fatigue and help you stay active. Treatments include:
- Medicines that slow or stop the underlying processes of the disease, such as DMARDS (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, such as methotrexate), biological treatments (given by injection) or Jak inhibitors
- Medicines to reduce pain, such as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) or acetaminophen
- Corticosteroids to help reduce inflammation, pain and stiffness
- Surgery (for joint damage or to relieve pain)
- Regular doctor visits to monitor your health
- Complementary therapies (therapies that are used alongside conventional treatments, such as diets, vitamins, massage and other approaches)
Clinical Trials – Learn More
Clinical trials are advancing our understanding of RA and investigating potential treatments for people with it. They depend on people like you to volunteer to take part.
Potential benefits of participating in a clinical trial include:
- Close care and monitoring by a study doctor and staff throughout the study
- No cost for study treatment, related tests and procedures
- Contribute to our understanding of treatment of RA
Have you considered taking part in a clinical trial for people with RA?
If you would like to be considered for an upcoming clinical trial in RA, take our survey. We also invite you to join our patient community.
Thank you for sharing with us.