Video Q & A:

Ask Your Doctor


What key questions should I ask my doctor about RA treatment?

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

You're about to embark on a long and often difficult journey-- treating your rheumatoid arthritis. End goal: Remission. Find out what questions may help guide you.

Transcript: You’ve just been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Questions are FLYING through your mind. Here are a FEW basic ones to start with when you’re meeting with your doctor. First question: “What’s the first step? “ Well, in the past, doctors used to start new patients on NSAIDs--or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs—in order to treat RA pain. But nowadays, they usually start new patients on disease modifying antirheumatic drugs – or DMARDs pp right away. They are the only drugs to actually SLOW the progression of rheumatoid arthritis. Although DMARDs are strong medications, you’ll thank them for saving you from joint damage and years of pain. Next question – “What are the side effects of these drugs?” All traditional DMARDs and the more modern versions called biologics have common, minor side effects and RARE major side effects. Depending on the DMARD, the minor effects include: nausea, vomiting, sore throat, headache and loss of appetite. If you take a biologic, some of the most common side effects are skin rashes, itchiness, bruising and swelling, all of which occur around the injection site. Also, all DMARDs and biologics increase your risk of infection. You should definitely ask your doctor about side effects of the specific drug YOU’RE on and discuss the risks and benefits to you. Your THIRD key question may be– “Can I remain physically active?” Your doctor WANTS you to remain active. Gentle, range of motion exercises help you retain joint mobility. Aerobic exercise will help you maintain your weight. And strengthening exercises will help you build muscle support for your joints. If you’re interested in starting a fitness routine, you may want to see a physical therapist—they’ll teach you exercises that work best for people with RA. Speaking of self-help, your LAST question may be, “Are there any NATURAL ways I can relive my symptoms? “ There are actually MANY ways you can supplement your medication with NON-drug remedies. WITH your doctor’s permission, you can try out techniques such as muscle relaxation, breathing exercises, and acupuncture. SUPPLEMENTS such as Omega-3s in fish oil have both been shown to relieve RA pain. Ask your doctor before starting ANY of these, though. These questions will help you start a dialogue with your doctor. It’s important to play an active role in your treatment, and asking questions is a great start! To learn more about rheumatoid arthritis, watch other videos in this series! More »

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