Rheumatoid arthritis can be painful, but managing your medication doesn’t have to be. MedCart Specialty Pharmacy understands the importance of a carefully managed medication regimen to relieve pain and slow or prevent joint damage.
Our expert team of pharmacists and support staff offer guidance for even the most complex regimen, which is essential to achieving good treatment outcomes and keeping down costs.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Basics
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a type of inflammatory arthritis and an autoimmune disease, according to the Arthritis Foundation. In people with RA, their body’s immune system attacks the thin membrane that lines the joints, causing fluid build-up, pain and inflammation. RA is a chronic disease that’s systemic, which means it can affect the entire body.
Most people with RA have periodic flare-ups, when their symptoms get more intense, although RA can be persistent in some people and get worse over time. Still other people can go for long periods of time with no symptoms. Experts agree that early diagnosis and the right treatment are key to preventing complications.
Diagnosis and Treatment
People with RA usually experience symptoms equally on both sides of the body. The most commonly affected joints are wrists, fingers, knees, feet and ankles. Symptoms can begin slowly with minor joint pain, stiffness and fatigue. Other symptoms include morning stiffness, joints that feel warm, tender and stiff after an hour of inactivity, loss of range of motion and numbness or tingling in the hands and feet.
To diagnose RA, physicians perform a medical history and physical exam. There are also tests that can help including a rheumatoid factor test, blood work and imaging tests. Once diagnosed, RA usually requires lifelong treatment — which can often be very effective.
In addition to lifestyle changes such as regular physical activity, stretching, eating a balanced diet and participating in physical therapy, there are many medications that can help. Some medications are designed to relieve symptoms and reduce inflammation, while others are intended to modify the disease or put it into remission, including biologic agents that target the parts of the immune system that contribute to RA.
Many people need a combination of medications, which require ongoing monitoring to watch for side effects or significant changes in the immune system. In some cases, if joint damage becomes severe surgery might be required.