The Ups and Downs of Treatment: RA Tells a Complex Story

We continue to raise awareness about rheumatoid arthritis (RA) during Arthritis Awareness Month. Join us each week as we highlight different parts of the RA journey. In our first article, we talked about RA symptoms and diagnosis. In this second article, we are focusing on treatment.

But first, take our quick poll below. How many RA medications did you try before you found what works best for you and your RA?

Community Poll

I have tried ____ medication(s) before I found what worked best for me.

What is the goal of RA treatment?

RA is a chronic autoimmune disease. Autoimmune means that your immune system begins to attack and damage healthy cells. Damage from RA can continue over time and lead to worse symptoms. While RA is known as a joint disease, many areas of the body are affected by RA inflammation. The progression of RA looks different for each person. As the disease progresses, treatment for RA may change.1,2

There are 3 main goals of RA treatment. These are:3,4

  • Providing control of symptoms, including inflammation, pain, and swelling
  • Preventing damage to joints and other parts of the body
  • Maintaining the ability to function and overall quality of life

To achieve these treatment goals, your doctor may talk to you about options like traditional DMARDS (like methotrexate), biologics, or JAK inhibitors. Your doctor may also talk to you about non-drug management approaches such as:3,4

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Diet and exercise
  • Physical and occupational (functional) therapy
  • Complementary and alternative medicine approaches

For many, finding treatment for RA can be challenging. Below, click the title to read the personal stories of how people with RA have navigated their treatment journey.

Better understanding RA treatment

The Persistence of Pain
Kelly Mack
"These results suggest that RA pain is not solely related to inflammation but has other origins or contributions to the pain experience. While treatment that quiets the disease and inflammation activity can help with pain, it seems pain also comes from other sources."

What’s Your Target?
Carla Kienast
"There will be compromises. My current RA treatment plan hits nearly every personal target I have. My 1 complaint is it’s an infusion and I have really bad veins. The fact that my doctor is also hitting the targets she’s set for my treatment makes us both happy. So talk to your doctor about what your targets are."

JAK Inhibitor vs Biologic DMARD: What Is the Difference? Editorial Team
"A JAK inhibitor can be used for moderate to severe RA when the first drug for treating RA does not work well enough, or if the first therapy causes unpleasant side effects. Or it can be added to another treatment, like methotrexate. Combining the 2 can help some RA patients achieve better results. Also, JAK inhibitors are taken orally instead of as injections or infusions."

Can a Blood Test Predict Treatment Response in RA?
Lisa Emrich
"A recent study suggests that laboratory tests may be helpful in predicting which patients with rheumatoid arthritis will respond to disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). With so many treatment options available for RA, wouldn’t it be great to know in advance which treatments are most likely to work for an individual patient?"

What to Ask Your Doctor Before Starting a Biologic for RA
Amanda Osowski
"Asking all of your questions before beginning any new medication, let alone a biologic, is so critical to your comfort and success with a new treatment plan. Additionally, connecting with other patients who have been on that medication can help support you by learning about patient perspectives and recommendations."

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