Video Q & A:

Symptoms, Tests, & Diagnosis

Question:

I was just diagnosed with RA.  What can I expect?

Expert:   Linda Russell, MD, Hospital for Special Surgery »

You've just been told you have rheumatoid arthritis. But it's not the end of your mobility and independence-- watch this to find out what's in store.

Transcript: After a series of physical exams, blood tests and X-rays, your doctor has told you that rheumatoid arthritis is the cause of your stiff, painful joints. Now what? Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive disease in which joint damage often occurs within the first TWO years of disease. And if you have gone UNdiagnosed for some time, progressive erosion of joint cartilage and bone may have started already. Going WITHOUT treatment often leaves people work disabled within 2 to 3 years of diagnosis, and as the disease progresses can lead to such painful joint destruction and deformity that complete loss of joint function is possible. So what can you do? Right away you want to explore your treatment options. That’s important. Starting medical therapy EARLY can prevent IRREPARABLE joint damage and ease the agonizing pain and stiffness that can develop with RA. Drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen can treat the PAIN of your rheumatoid arthritis, but the ONLY meds that SLOW the progression of RA are called DMARDs, or disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs. Your doctor will likely start you on a DMARD called methotrexate right away. AND may pair it with other DMARDs such as leflunomide or sulfasalazine. These medications can slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis and offer you greater quality of life. Eventually, you may be placed on a biologic response modifier. These drugs are also DMARDs, but they treat RA on a molecular level using substances engineered from human cells. They can STOP joint damage. But they DO make you more susceptible to infections, so it’s possible that you’ll have a harder time preventing upper respiratory infections, urinary tract infections and other common bugs. Making sure you have the best future with RA also means getting plenty of exercise. While moving may be painful at times, gentle exercise can STRENGTHEN the muscles that support your joints and improve range-of-motion. Start with low-impact exercises such as walking or swimming. You also want to upgrade your nutrition – losing weight if you need to will take pressure off tender joints. Also, eating food that’s high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, and with a good dose of antioxidants, such as blueberries, may help keep joints mobile. If you STICK to your treatment plan and continue with a healthy lifestyle, you can MINIMIZE pain and joint damage. For more on rheumatoid arthritis, look for other videos in this series. More »

Can't Find an Answer? Send us your question »