Managing Your Rheumatoid Arthritis

What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation, which leads to joint swelling and chronic joint pain. While your smaller joints tend to be affected first, at the onset of the disease (finger joints and toe joints), rheumatoid arthritis symptoms often spread to other parts of the body as the disease progresses. RA also tends to affect joints in symmetrical patterns; in other words, if one knee or hand is affected, the other one usually is too.

The exact causes of rheumatoid arthritis are unknown, but RA is thought to develop from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Common Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis:

  • Joint pain
  • Tender, warm, swollen joints
  • Morning stiffness
  • Fatigue
  • A general sense of feeling unwell

About 40 percent of people with RA also experience signs and symptoms that don’t involve the joints. Other body systems, including the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, and blood vessels, may be affected.

Factors That May Increase Your Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis:

  • Women are more likely than men to develop RA
  • Middle age is when RA typically develops, though it can occur at any age
  • Family history of RA
  • Smoking, especially if you have a genetic predisposition for RA
  • Environmental exposures to asbestos or silica
  • Obesity, especially in women age 55 and younger

The Impact of RA Symptoms

 

Once it develops, rheumatoid arthritis is a lifelong condition. Living with RA can take a toll over time. Physically, joint symptoms can impact your ability to perform everyday activities and care for your family, while emotionally, you may not feel like participating in social activities or be able to do your best at work. Talking to your rheumatologist can help you see better results in managing rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.

To help manage your rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis, download our Doctor Discussion Guide to inform the next appointment with your rheumatologist. Through open conversation with your doctor about how symptoms are affecting you physically and emotionally, together you can decide your best plan for treatment.

There are so many different faces for RA, and it’s not relegated to one age group. If you are scared because of the information that you’ve read... have a conversation with your doctor. Take that opportunity; don’t let it pass you by. Because you have one life.

- Meg, CIMZIA patientIndividual results may vary.

Diagnosing Rheumatoid Arthritis

 

A rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis can be difficult to make at first, because early signs and symptoms may be similar to those of many other diseases. There is no single test that can definitively point to RA.

For these reasons, it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms and address them with a specialist trained to diagnose and treat rheumatoid arthritis. A rheumatologist will be familiar with the condition and will know where to look to confirm the disease—and can determine how severe it is. Often the first step is performing a physical exam to check your joints for common rheumatoid arthritis symptoms (swelling, warmth, and redness), as well as reflexes, muscle strength, and overall function.

Rheumatoid Factor and Other Diagnostic Tests

One common test to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis is to check for high levels of rheumatoid factor (or RA factor), an antibody present in the blood of many patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

Other steps of the diagnostic process may include, but are not limited to:

  • Checking for elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) or C-reactive protein (CRP), which indicate inflammation
  • X-rays to help track the progression of RA
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and ultrasound tests to determine the severity of RA

Osteoarthritis vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis can often be misdiagnosed, and osteoarthritis is one of the main conditions that can be mistaken for RA. Though they may share joint symptoms like pain and stiffness, especially at the onset of disease, the difference is the underlying cause. The inflammation of RA may cause joint pain throughout the body, while osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition from increased wear and tear on the body’s joints. Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, it destroys joint cartilage over time.

They went through a whole bevy of things they thought it might be: fibromyalgia, lupus... they finally put me for an RA factor test and then went through a range-of-motion series. That’s when I was officially diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

- Meg, CIMZIA patientIndividual results may vary.

How To Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis

 

While there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, early recognition, diagnosis, and treatment are critical to getting your condition under control as early as possible.

While the progression of rheumatoid arthritis varies from person to person, for most people it can worsen over time and potentially require surgery if it isn’t managed properly. That’s why it’s so important to talk to your rheumatologist to fully understand the complexities of rheumatoid arthritis throughout your treatment experience.

CIMZIA (certolizumab pegol), as a biologic for rheumatoid arthritis, works inside the body and may help people with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis achieve results even when other treatment options haven't worked. Ask your rheumatologist how CIMZIA may work for you.

Tips for rheumatoid arthritis treatment:

  • Exercise can help. Talk with your rheumatologist about creating an exercise plan that’s right for you.
  • Assistive devices may ease the stress on your joints. Ask your doctor for recommendations on kitchen tools and other items that can help protect your joints and make activities easier for you to complete.
  • Support is available. For people prescribed CIMZIA, the CIMplicity® program is designed to help you start and stay on treatment with confidence.* For financial assistance options, refresher training on treatment, and more, enroll now.*

Manage Your Rheumatoid Arthritis With Confidence

By keeping track of your symptoms, writing down any questions you have, and being open with your rheumatologist about what you’re experiencing, you can find the treatment that’s most appropriate for you, even if you’ve been on other rheumatoid arthritis treatments before. To ensure a productive conversation at your next appointment, download our Doctor Discussion Guide.

*The CIMplicity program is provided as a service of UCB and is intended to support the appropriate use of CIMZIA. The CIMplicity program may be amended or canceled at any time without notice. Some program and eligibility restrictions may apply.

I would say RA is almost like an afterthought to me now.

- Diedra, CIMZIA patientIndividual results may vary.

Resources For Support

CIMplicity® is a free program that provides support at each step of your experience when treating your rheumatoid arthritis with CIMZIA (certolizumab pegol). For more details, enroll now.*

The American College of Rheumatology works to advance rheumatology treatment through programs to improve care for people with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases and arthritis.

Working to advance the treatment of more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions, the Arthritis Foundation also has a helpline available at 1-844-571-HELP.

Arthritis Today is the consumer health magazine published by the Arthritis Foundation.

The National Data Bank (NDB) for Rheumatic Diseases is the largest patient-reported research data bank for rheumatic disorders in the United States. The NDB works to improve treatment outcomes for people with rheumatic disorders.

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases supports research into the causes, treatment, and prevention of arthritis and of musculoskeletal and skin diseases.

*The CIMplicity program is provided as a service of UCB and is intended to support the appropriate use of CIMZIA. The CIMplicity program may be amended or canceled at any time without notice. Some program and eligibility restrictions may apply.

 

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