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Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Information

Seven questions. Short answers. Spread awareness.

Who gets Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)?

The typical RA patient is a woman in her late thirties to mid-forties. However, almost anyone can get RA. Children get can get one of several forms of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA or JIA). And men can get RA too!

The people who seem least likely to be diagnosed with full-blown RA are the elderly. Ironically, the name of the disease confuses people: Since the name of the disease has the word “arthritis” in it, many assume Rheumatoid Arthritis is a disease of the elderly.

Is Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) a serious illness?

Yes, RA is a serious illness comparable to diabetes or angina. RA patients do not tend to live as long and require lifelong treatment by a specialist. Being diagnosed with RA doubles the risk of developing heart disease, which is a major reason for the high mortality rate of RA.

RA attacks the lining around vital organs in the same way that it attacks joints. RA patients frequently have to manage several other complications caused by RA. Most RA patients will have several hospitalizations or joint surgeries, or require physical assistance at some point in time.

Is there a cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)?

No, there is no Rheumatoid Arthritis cure. The internet is full of so-called cures for RA. Many of them came from Grandma’s attic, being handed down through antiquity. Friends often prescribe honey with cinnamon, cherry juice, or Tylenol Arthritis to cure their friends’ RA.

There are good reasons that it is hard to find a real RA cure:  RA is an extremely complex disease. For one thing RA is heterogeneous, meaning it does not always behave the same way, even in a single patient. Think of it like trying to cure a virus that mutates.

What’s it like living with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)?

Some Rheumatoid Arthritis patients have a mild course of the disease and live a somewhat normal life. Still, they probably live with regular doctor visits, the most expensive drugs in the world, side effects of those medicines, and several physical limitations. People with severe RA may experience deformity, damage, or disability even early in the disease. Most RA patients are somewhere in the middle. The two most common symptoms of RA are pain and fatigue.

RA is an autoimmune disease that attacks the joints and organs. However, RA is often a hidden illness because the damage is often not visible from a distance. This can make it difficult for RA patients to receive physical assistance or exceptions that they require to accommodate their limitations.

RA almost always progresses or becomes more severe over time. RA symptoms can improve and worsen alternately in some patients in a pattern called flares. It can be unpredictable how physically disabled a person with RA will be at any particular time. For many RA patients, this unpredictability is a source of frustration.

What kind of medicine do people take for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)?

Most people with Rheumatoid Arthritis do take two kinds of medicine: medicine to suppress the disease and medicine to manage symptoms. The best medicines we have for RA today are called disease modifying drugs. They fight RA by suppressing the immune system. Also, most RA patients need medicine to manage symptoms of RA which remain even after the disease is treated aggressively. RA can cause severe pain which patients say is akin to a broken bone or other acute injury. Often, these medicines cause bothersome side effects like nausea, weight gain, or susceptibility to infection.

What can others do to help those living with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)?

There are many simple things that can be done to improve the lives of people living with Rheumatoid Arthritis. First, you can join a community like this one with Rheumatoid Arthritis information, and help to spread awareness about the disease as you learn. Those who are more educated about RA probably will not hurt someone’s hands or make insensitive comments.

Second, you might find ways to help anyone you know who is living with RA such as helping to avoid exposing them to germs since infections are a danger. There are many other helpful things to do like the ones in this practical list.

What do I do if I suspect I have Rheumatoid Arthritis? Information on RA diagnosis

There are simple blood tests which can help diagnose RA, but there is no definitive test. At least one-third of people with RA have negative blood tests. Often it is necessary to get more than one medical opinion since the first symptom of RA may not be a joint symptom or one that is considered typical. Many RA patients receive another diagnosis at first, partly because of various misconceptions about what RA should look like. Diagnoses on second or third opinion are very common.

If someone suspects RA, she/he should see a rheumatologist as soon as possible. Treating the disease as early and aggressively as possible is believed to be the best hope at slowing its progress or altering its course.

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What’s this for?  This page provides RA info at-a-glance that’s still true to life, a quick source of information to anyone asking about RA. This button can be posted on any website or sent as a link to anyone curious or confused about RA. Feel free to copy the code from the box so you can grab the button and pass it on. For more basic information about Rheumatoid Arthritis, see the RA 101 pages on this website.

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