How Bad Is It to Have Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Ask a Doctor

I have just been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, and I’m worried about my quality of life. What is the prognosis for a disease like rheumatoid arthritis?

Doctor’s Response

There is no known cure for rheumatoid arthritis. However, with early, aggressive treatment with DMARDs, many patients are able to achieve remission, meaning the symptoms of RA are quiet.

The Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs [DMARDs] group of drugs includes a wide variety of agents that work in many different ways. What they all have in common is that they interfere in the immune processes that promote inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis.

Sometimes, the dose of medications may be reduced when remission is achieved. It is unusual for rheumatoid arthritis to remain in remission if medications are stopped, and when this does occur (rarely), symptoms and signs usually come back over time. For this reason, it is not advisable to stop rheumatoid arthritis medications unless advised to do so by a rheumatologist.

The following tips are helpful in managing and living with RA:

  • Live a healthy lifestyle: Eat healthy foods. Avoid sugar and junk food. Quit smoking, or don't start. Don't drink alcohol in excess. These common-sense measures have an enormous impact on general health and help the body function at its best.
  • Exercise: Discuss the right kind of exercise for you with your doctor, if necessary.
  • Rest when needed, and get a good night's sleep. The immune system functions better with adequate sleep. Pain and mood improve with adequate rest.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions about medications to maximize effectiveness and minimize side effects.
  • Communicate with your doctor about your questions and concerns. They have experience with many issues that are related to rheumatoid arthritis.

For more information, read our full medical article on rheumatoid arthritis.

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References
McInnes, I.B., and G. Schett. "Mechanisms of Disease: The Pathogenesis of Rheumatoid Arthritis." N Engl J Med 365 (2011): 2205-2219.