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Facts You Should Know About RA

Top 5 Facts You Should Know About RA

1. Rheumatoid Arthritis is more than a joint disease.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which inflammation damages the lining of joints, tissues that surround joints (such as tendons), other connective tissue throughout the body, and the surface of bones. RA is one of more than 100 forms of arthritis affecting millions of Americans. It is not the same disease as osteoarthritis which is commonly called the “wear and tear” arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect persons of any age, may cause crippling disability that impairs a person’s ability to stay active and independent, and may shorten a person’s lifespan.

2. RA cannot be diagnosed by blood tests alone.

Rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed by a combination of clinical history, laboratory tests, and imaging studies (such as x-ray, MRI, or ultrasound). Common blood tests used to help reach a diagnosis include those which measure nonspecific inflammatory markers, such as erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR or sed rate) or C-reactive protein (CRP). Most people with RA, will test positive for rheumatoid factor (RF); however, up to a third of people with RA will test negative for RF. These individuals have sero-negative RA. Studies show that anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP) antibodies may be detected in healthy individuals years before the clinical onset of RA. Additional abnormal blood test results may include high platelet count, low albumin, anemia, and elevated alkaline phosphatase (a liver enzyme).

3. RA increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Rheumatoid arthritis, a systemic disease which damages more than joints, can also affect internal organs such the heart, lungs, liver, or vascular system. RA has been associated with cardiovascular disease, heart failure, lung disease, eye disorders, fibromyalgia, depression, and more. Patients with RA need to attend to their cardiovascular health by controlling high cholesterol, eating a heart-healthy balanced diet, and getting regular exercise. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among people diagnosed with RA.

4. Exercise is good for RA.

Rheumatoid arthritis causes pain and stiffness and often reduces range of motion. While special care must be taken to protect joints during an RA flare, general immobility can be counterproductive for someone with RA. Low impact exercises, such as swimming, walking, cycling, or yoga, are recommended to improve strength, flexibility, range of motion, and cardiovascular health. Studies have shown that 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, five days a week, can boost mood and improve overall health and function. Talk to your physician about the best exercise regimen for you.

5. Early & aggressive treatment is best for RA.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive disease which if left unchecked can cause permanent damage, disability, and dysfunction. Studies have shown that initiating aggressive treatment within three months of symptom onset is critical to helping patients achieve remission. However, a diagnosis of RA can often take longer than three months. Prompt treatment with disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) can help to reduce RA symptoms and protect against damaging inflammation. Once remission or indications of low disease activity have been achieved, however, it is equally important to stay on treatment. RA is a lifelong, incurable disease which requires lifelong treatment.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • jact
    9 months ago

    I have Lupus and RA Fibromyalgia And Antiphosfolipid Syndrome my knees have bee bad 8 year ; but now can’t walk .. both knees Bone on bone …they don’t want to do surgery because infection in gums…and I don’t want to spend $13,000.00 I’m 72 don’t want to spend that much and can’t stand pain any Longer… What can I Do…Thank You for any help one might have…!

  • gweniem
    10 months ago

    After years of does she or doesn’t she have RA, the anti-CCP test confirmed it. Other tests had been positive for many years but I am very high functioning so they were essentially ignored. Now I am on methotrexate again and abatacept. I have no problems with abatacept but methotrexate gives me really bad brain fog, blurry vision and fatigue so badly I find it difficult to do much. Isn’t there something better than this little wicked drug?

  • lripp
    11 months ago

    Diagnosed 2 years ago, now have fibromyalgia also. Initially I was on prednisone and methotrexate. Which made my liver numbers triple to what was normal. Finally off of both, now on Humira. Extreme brain fog, memory getting worse every day, not to mention cramping in hands, stiffness and sore and swollen feet, knees, shoulders, etc. I work full time at a bank, 18 years, my question is (I’m 53) my symptoms are progressing pretty fast and I carry ins. For my family, how do I know when it’s time to apply for disability? How difficult is it to get?

  • jan22mom
    10 months ago

    I was diagnosed over se years ago.
    I am on Orencia. Brain fog is the worse but I read more and I play computer games. I take a teaspoon of mustard and it helps to alleviate the muscle cramps before it gets too bad. Licking salt also helps with the cramping

  • cande
    12 months ago

    I was reading an article here about RA and driving. Does anyone have trouble with their eyes getting blurry or just “not right?”

  • Hoppe
    1 year ago

    My RA factor is over 3,000 but a have been free of symtoms with 2 flares in 3 years. Which Prednisone cleared in 2 days

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator
    1 year ago

    Glad you’re feeling better. Thanks for sharing, @hoppe! ~Monica

  • Prettywoman513
    1 year ago

    I was diagnosedinJune 2017..

    My legs have started shaking and i have fallen a few times. Thw tensons and cartilage around my knee joint are being destroyed. i have had a right knee replacement twice and have to have left knee replaced soon . My rifhr shoulder had timo be replaced. The jiint in my neck is causinh muscle spasms in my neck and throat causing pain in my throat.

    i am breathlessquite often, mostly after having the shaking legs.

    I take Xeljanz and 10mg prednisone daily.

    Any advice would be appreciated. i am scared but an introvert so i get nervous talking to doctora feeling lije a hypochondriac

    please help

  • Alesandra Bevilacqua moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi, Prettywoman513. I’m so sorry to hear you’re struggling with joint pain and breathlessness. And two surgeries on one knee – wow. I can’t imagine what it’s been like for you. Does either your doctor or rheumatologist know about these concerns yet? I know you mentioned you feel scared and nervous bringing these up to your doctor, but remember that you know your body best. We can’t give medical advice here (for your safety!) but feel free to come by any time for support, comfort, or to share with us. We’re thinking of you today <3 Hang in there. - Alesandra ( Team)

  • Prettywoman513
    1 year ago

    soery for the spelling errors. usibg speaker phone to type.

  • merhohexate77
    1 year ago

    Does the “fog” (methohexate and the disease itself) ever go away?
    I’m a 77 y/old RN
    I still have to work as weekend Mgr and I was slower than someone taking a nap!!

  • MaryB
    1 year ago

    Totally agree that God is my best support. My therapist said she didn’t know how I could be knocked down so many times and still get up. She is faith based so I said I take His hand and he keeps me going.

  • Sierramarie11
    1 year ago

    Hello! I just turned 44 this may, 2018. I was Diagnoised with RA 4 months ago. I have had two surgeries on my feet. It has spreading to my knees and hands. I must have had it for many, many years. I am getting treated with the best care possible. In my mind, after two surgeries, I believe the best care is God and me now…can someone out there give me a clue on what I am truly dealing with for life?

    1 year ago

    I have been diagnosed about two years now, still learning about it myself. However, I have a friend who has lived with RA for 30 years. Her advise God is your best source, a healthy diet, stay away from sugar, get plenty of rest and staying active. This was helpful in managing her RA. Everyone experience is different, I am sure.

    I experience fatigue a lot, swollen joints at times. I refuse to let it get the best of me. Hope this was helpful. Be encouraged and keep the faith!

  • deb856
    12 months ago

    do you notice that sugar really does impact your RA? I’ve been eating a lot of sweets lately and am flaring up.

  • southerngirl72
    2 years ago

    I was symtomatic for 2 years before finally asking my internist to obtain an ANA & SED Rate on me. I suppose having worked for Social Security disability for the last 20 years, I had become used to hearing complaints about pain so I failed to question my own. I eventually learned I had sero negative RA. I am a year into tx which includes Plaquenil twice daily and Methotrexate weekly. Despite an increase in the Methotrexate, my Vectra D results have me consistently @ 50 or higher. I am now embarking on biologic infusion therapy. At 46 yo, this dz, and the tx, is having a systemic effect on me. There are times when the 40 work week feels like 140 hours! I have never been as fatigued and nauseated as I have been over the last year. It is nice to be able to share information and learn from others who may be experiencing similar sx. Thanks in advance, y’all!!

  • DebbieH
    12 months ago

    Yes I agree the plaquenil is bad stuff. I was on it and methotrexate 6 yrs then I began feeling more tired then usual . I just figured it was the RA then 3 months into still feeling tired I got a sore throat so I went to urgent care. Well that was the best decision of my life. I was in stage 4 kidney failure. They were at 6 %. After 2 weeks in the hospital with 3 sessions of dialysis , 2 blood transfusions and a kidney biopsy there found out it was the Methatrexate that cause it. Also when the kidneys stopped working the methotrexate back up and ate my stomach lining, esophagus and mouth making it like one big canker sore. I was unable to eat or drink the 2 weeks also. After a lot of recuperation and watching my diet a year later they are now back to normal at 56 %. I forgot to mention that since methotrexate is a chemo drug I lost all my hair too.

    So I’m telling my story to let people know that they need to be careful with what you take. Research you drugs at for side effects and reports of death.

    I wish you well in your journey with this awful disease.

  • Kimberly
    2 years ago

    Be careful with Plaquinil. It can affect vision. My eye doctors office even have protocols to check eyesight every 6 mths instead of 12 mths if taking Plaquinil

  • brumby2003
    2 years ago

    I’ve been suffering with JIA also known as RA since I was born, pain is normal to me. I didn’t know facts number 3 so thank you for that

  • NannyKaren
    2 years ago

    Good information! I did not realize until having a heart attack this past October that my RA made me prone to cardio problems. Now I have new meds to take along with my RA meds. I appreciate this site and all the information provided. I’ve been dealing with RA for over 10 years and have been unaware of a lot of this information. Thank you❤️

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator
    2 years ago

    I am so glad you like the website, NannyKaren!! I really love this community because we are surrounded by people who are going through the same thing. We constantly support each other and I myself have learned a lot through other people’s experience!! So glad you’re part of the community! ~Monica ( Team)

  • Deena
    2 years ago

    This is a Great artical. I have been fighting RA for about Wow 8 years now…I had so many problems before I decided to seek help. I had always been super active running daily going to the gym at least three days a week. My joints had been hurting for quite sometime. My pain just kept increasing the morning pain and stiffness worsened until I Finally went and seen my personal physician at which time i told her I knew that there was something wrong and that i felt i had to have Lupis or some form of autoimmune disorder. I have been in the medical field for over 20 years and for me to complain she knew it had to be serious. I tested positive for RA so of course i was referred to a Rheumatologist. It’s obvious I have OA so it took Quite sometime for him to stop focusing on that. Since this began i have had bilateral carpol tunnel syndrome surgery my back from L3 down fused with cages between my vertebrae plates nuts bolts and cadaver bone grafts the same for my neck from C4 to C7. I have just turned 52 I had a Heart Attack at 49 and have a stent in my OM1 and was diagnosed with coronary artery disease. I just had my left knee scoped where my surgeon removed a cyst and cleaned the arthritis from around my joint. I will be having my knee done as well in a few weeks. Dispite ALL of this I still try and stay active I take a methotrexate and actemra injection weekly along with a plethora of other medications. Some days a easier than others but Hey what do you do? So I am the Perfect example of how RA affects some much more than your joints..

  • Dragonsitter
    2 years ago

    Great summary of our “problems”. I’m 72 and have had osteoarthritis for many years. I think I’ve had AR for a long time too, but disparate symptoms foxed and fooledy Doctor!! And me…

    I sat one day, and wrote them all out, trivial seeming or not, and a pattern began to emerge, which my specialist finally recognised. So I know now I am not a hypochondriac, but I do have AR!! So relieved to understand, finally. But my lungs are affected unfortunately. What a complex disease it is!!!

  • clover48
    2 years ago

    what type of lung symptoms do you have Richard?

  • Richard Faust moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi Dragonsitter. Sorry to hear you had so much difficulty getting a definitive diagnosis and have some lung issues, but glad you can now get the proper treatment. This article from our editorial team looks at lung diseases and RA: Please know you are always welcome here for information and support. Best, Richard ( Team)

  • elrudy8097
    4 years ago

    I’ve been diagnosed with RA 4 weeks ago,I thought like many illnesses, it will be treated and go away, my wife started educating herself about it and she would tell me to read about it and I would be like: ” yea I’ll do it later” or ” well she’s doing it for me, I don’t have to read”.
    Well, I found this page and started reading, and realized that I don’t have an illness that’ll go away and started to learn about my reality, thanks for helping me understand the magnitude of my situation.
    I’m a truck driver and I spend 10 to 12 hours a day sitting down driving, I guess at some point I’m gonna have to change this pattern as if maybe I won’t be able to drive for long periods.
    I’m waking up early because my pain which is now concentrated on my left wrist,right shoulder and both knees( I had fluid taken out of my left one) but the worst is my wrist, so when I go to bed I’m exhausted, and after 4 or 5 hours ( except for last night it was like 7 hours) I wake up in pain and I’m wondering: is this a flare up? Or this is gonna become much worst?
    I’m taking methotrexate and prednisone and I got Tylenol arthritis 650mgs and it said to take two tablets but the doctor told me 500mgs so even one tablet is more,
    Anyway thanks for all the info

  • Joey313
    2 years ago

    Hi Elrudy, it was interesting to read your story. It’s great that you and your wife are learning about RA together. Now that you’re diagnosed and under the care of a rheumatologist, it is likely that your pain and other symptoms will get better. You might consider writing a daily journal, to see how your meds, activities, diet, sleep, weather, etc. affect your symptoms. This would be good information for you and your rheumatologist, as you look at treatment alternatives. Best wishes to you!

  • RufusG
    4 years ago

    There is a blood test that is a good indicator for the long term Inflammation that is at the heart of Rheumatoid Arthritis

    This tests for all 26 Fatty Acids and then provides 2 key indicators:

    Omega-3 Index…..>8%…Do I have enough Omega-3 ?
    Omega-6/3 ratio…<3:1..Is my Inflammation low enough ?

    The dried blood test is preferred to a full blood draw, since it gives a good average for the previous 60-90 days based on the food that you have eaten.

    You can increase your Omega-3 by taking at least 2 grams of natural fish oil a day and preferably not synthetic concentrate.

    It is much more difficult to REDUCE Omega-6, since this involves significant changes in your diet and lifestyle !

    To help improve your Omega-6/3 Ratio you can reduce the amount of Omega-6 from typical plant oils such as:
    Sunflower oil (=64% Omega-6), Corn oil (52%) & Soya bean oil (51%)
    Soya beans are also used for animal feed, so you can improve your Omega-6/3 Ratio by reducing your consumption of animal products – unless the animals are grass-fed.

    To learn more about the effect of Omega-3, search for:

    Expertomega3 – search for Inflammation
    Fatsoflife – search for RA
    Omegaquant – see Research
    Omegametrix – see Publications


  • TeriP
    5 years ago

    What a great summary! Thank you, Lisa.

  • JS Stephens
    5 years ago

    Ms. Lisa, you are spot on…I would love all my family to read this. I just don’t think others have much knowledge of our rheumatiod disease & I wish they did. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge!

  • Megan Huntington
    5 years ago

    The best summary I’ve read so far!

  • Lisa Emrich author
    5 years ago

    Thank you, Megan! I’m so glad that you enjoy the summary. I hope that it helps others to understand and share information regarding RA.

  • Kelly Mack moderator
    5 years ago

    Great summary!

  • Lisa Emrich author
    5 years ago

    Hi Kelly,
    Thanks so much!

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