Rheumatoid Arthritis impacts more than 1.3 million people in the United States. Chances are, if you are reading this, you have likely been diagnosed or believe that you may have Rheumatoid Arthritis. Let’s take a look at what you should expect when receiving treatment after your diagnosis.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Overview
First, it is essential to understand what Rheumatoid Arthritis is and what the symptoms look like. If you received a diagnosis from your doctor, you likely already have some literature describing the symptoms, but here is a brief overview of the disorder and the symptoms that may occur.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that primarily affects the joints but can also impact the eyes, skin, heart, and blood vessels. Common symptoms include but are not limited to:
- Swollen, warm, or tender joints
- Joint stiffness that is typically worse after inactivity such as sleep or a prolonged period of rest
- Loss of Appetite
Some less commonly affected areas where symptoms may occur can be:
- Salivary Glands
- Nerve Tissue
- Bone Marrow
- Blood Vessels
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or have been diagnosed by your doctor, the good news is that there is relief. With treatment, you can begin to feel like your old self again.
What Should I Expect During the Treatment Process?
Chances are that you have heard of the approach to Rheumatoid Arthritis treatment and are wanting more information. The current approach is relatively similar but was optimized to offer you the best care. Here is what you can expect
Blood Tests: While blood testing is part of the diagnostic process, it will be frequently used to monitor the progress of the disorder as well as the impact of the medication and treatment. This gives your specialist the information that they need to alter medication and or change medicines for a more optimized treatment plan.
Imaging: You can expect your physician to order imagining tests during the diagnostic phase and periodically throughout treatment to track the progression of your Rheumatoid Arthritis. This will give your specialist insight into the effectiveness of your treatment so that they can make changes where necessary.
Education/Rest/Exercise: When it comes to treating your Rheumatoid Arthritis, a large portion of the treatment process falls on you. Your specialist will provide you with resource materials so that you can be fully educated on the disorder and what you need to do to properly combat the symptoms. You will be given instructions to rest and guidance on the best forms of exercise to alleviate symptoms without harming your joints.
Medication: Many medications will be used during your Rheumatoid Arthritis treatment. These range from NSAIDs and DMARDs to corticosteroids to alleviate symptoms quickly. Here are a few medications you can expect to take:
- NSAIDs: Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Agents are used for rapid, short-term pain and symptom relief. You have likely used some of these before. Some examples include:
- Over the Counter:
- DMARDs: Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs are a long-term pharmacological therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis that can take weeks and or months to start providing relief for your symptoms. Some medications you may be prescribed include:
- Corticosteroids: Steroids are necessary to help rapidly reduce and relieve the symptoms associated with Rheumatoid arthritis until the DMARDs start to take effect. Other steroids may be used, but you can likely expect your doctor to prescribe Prednisone.
Therapy: Your specialist will require you to undergo physical and occupational therapy as part of your treatment. During this time, you will learn different ways to complete everyday tasks so that you can avoid exacerbating some of your Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms. They will also introduce you to products that can help modify some of the utensils and tools that you use every day. These accommodations will reduce joint deterioration and allow you to experience fewer painful symptoms throughout the course of your day.
Surgery: If your Rheumatoid Arthritis is more advanced and medications are not slowing down the joint deterioration or relieving symptoms, a last resort option would be surgery. Your specialist will try to avoid this as there are more risks involved, but if it becomes necessary, some options include:
- Synovectomy: Removal of joint lining to reduce pain and increase joint flexibility.
- Tendon repair: Sometimes, inflammation may cause tendons to loosen or rupture, so your specialist may need to repair the damage that has occurred to reduce pain.
- Joint fusion: It may be necessary to fuse your joints back together to stabilize your joints if a total joint replacement is not an option.
- Total joint replacement: If your joints are damaged beyond repair, your surgeon will remove the damaged parts and replace them with metal or plastic prostheses. This will help reduce Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms and pain.
Your specialist may also require different treatment options based on their expertise with your specific case and your insurance company. They will do their best to ensure that you get the relief that you need as quickly as possible so that you can get your life back.
What Should I Do Now?
If you have been diagnosed with or think you may have Rheumatoid Arthritis, ensure that you get the proper treatment as soon as you can. Delaying will only further increase the risk of more damage and lengthen the time it takes for you to experience the relief that you desperately need.
Please contact your primary care physician or our Rheumatologists today to schedule an appointment. Your doctor will get you the relief you need as soon as possible. Experience relief now.