Video Q & A:

Joint Damage

Question:

How can I prevent joint damage if I have RA?

Expert:   Harry D. Fischer, MD, Chief of Rheumatology, Beth Israel Medical Center New York »

If you're aggressive in the treatment of your rheumatoid arthritis, you can slow its progression and therefore prevent joint damage. Watch this video for more information.

Transcript: Nothing is GUARANTEED to prevent joint damage if you have RA, but you CAN take action to avoid it. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease in which your immune system becomes OVERACTIVE and mistakenly attacks the lining of your joints. If left untreated or UNDERtreated it may lead to extensive joint damage and pain. That’s why, once you’re diagnosed, it’s very important to begin treatment ASAP. Numerous studies have shown that the EARLIER you receive treatment, the less your joints will suffer. Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen will relieve pain symptoms, but to slow down joint damage, your doctor will prescribe DMARDs, or disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs. Common ones include methotrexate and cyclosporine. If those don’t slow down the progression of your RA, your doctor will introduce biologic response modifiers, which affect your immune system. Popular ones include etanercept and adalimumab. And don’t let up on your treatment UNLESS your doctor tells you. Consistent therapy is necessary if you want to fight RA effectively. EXERCISE is another VITAL way to reduce joint damage. Range-of-motion exercise will keep you feeling flexible and make daily tasks easier. AEROBIC exercise will help you to reduce or maintain your weight, which lessens the amount of force pressing down on your joints. And STRENGTH-BUILDING exercises will build up your muscles, which helps to diminish the stress placed on weakened joints. But don’t over-do it. Pushing yourself too hard may HARM your joints and cause added pain. Talk to your doctor about designing an exercise program that suits your needs and abilities. And if you can, work with a physical therapist to make sure you get all the benefits exercise can provide. Finally… canes, splints and braces can reduce wear-and-tear. IIf you’re interested in using them, ask your doctor. Although rheumatoid arthritis is incurable, there ARE steps you can take to protect your joints and reduce the damage this disease can cause. For more answers to your RA questions, watch other videos in this series! More »

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