What are the different stages of RA?

My rheumy keeps telling me I have early RA, but based upon the results of my MRI’s it appears as if the disease is particularly aggressive and corrosive. I did not respond as adequately as I had hoped to the first biologic and now I am on a second one–though still quite early in the tx, I feel as if I am getting worse, that the disease process has shifted and what used to be pain in couple of fingers is now ravaging every part of my hand.
My question is because, as my rheumy has stated, this is “early RA” is it particularly more painful?
For example, either I will respond to the medication and get better, or if I do not respond as I hope, the pain will eventually become less because there is nothing more to hurt once the disease does its damage?


Community Answers
  • Richard Faust moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi kingkatekong. Sorry to hear that you are struggling with finding a treatment and pain regimen. You mention that you have switched biologics once and waiting to see if the second one is effective. This article from one of our contributors looks at switching medications and determining when is the right time or if a treatment is effective: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/switching-ra-medicines-dont-wait-long-try-many/.

    Pain, of course, is one of the most cited issues in the community. As Erin said, it is impossible to truly assess what pain is normal, acceptable, or indicative of a greater problem – especially for us, over the internet. This article from our editorial team looks at pain as an RA symptom, with quite a bit of treatment information: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/symptoms/joints-pain/.

    Finally, when a new RA case is diagnosed and treatment started, the emotional aspects can often take a back seat to the physical, but are very important. This article looks at dealing with the emotional aspects of a diagnosis: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/symptoms/depression-anxiety-and-emotional-problems/.

    Hope this information is useful and know that you are always welcome here for information and support. Please keep us posted on how you are doing. Best, Richard (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • kingkatekong author
    1 year ago

    Thank you for this info. It is very helpful indeed. About three days after I posted this, I woke up feeling better than I have in about 6 months. Even though I’ve experienced what I perceive to be permanent joint damage in a few of my fingers, if this is the new “new” me I can live with this! I’m so very encouraged that the new medications are working–remicade/methotrexate–and I am really grateful that if I have to have RA it’s at a time when the advancements in medications have been tremendous!!!

  • Erin Rush moderator
    1 year ago

    That’s a great question, kingkatekong! I am not sure I can offer an adequate response. Many people find the early stages of RA to be a challenge because it is all so new and unfamiliar. Also, if your RA is particularly aggressive, it may feel extremely painful. Please continue to let your rheumatologist know if you feel like your body is not responding well to the medications you are taking to control your RA. Early, proactive treatment is one of the best ways to slow damage to joints and to help manage RA-related pain. I thought you might find this article on the importance of managing fatigue and pain interesting — https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/the-importance-of-addressing-pain-and-fatigue/. Of particular interest in the article is a study that was conducted among people with early-onset RA.

    I cannot answer whether your pain will diminish or if you will just get “used to it”, for lack of a better term. I wish I had more concrete answers for you. I do hope some of our members with early-onset RA might share their experiences with you, to offer you some insight.

    Please keep us posted on how you are doing and don’t be afraid to keep advocating for yourself with your medical team. After all; it’s your body and no one knows it quite like you do.

    Best, Erin, RheumatoidArthritis.net Team Member.

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