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Mistake 3: Skipping Doctor Appointments

While you may not feel the need to see your rheumatologist when your RA is less active, keeping your appointments is still important. 

During regular visits, your doctor will:

  • Monitor the course of your disease
  • Determine how well your treatment is working
  • Look for harmful side effects
  • Adjust your treatment, if necessary

In addition to seeing your doctor, you also may need periodic lab tests or X-rays. It's important that keep those appointments, too.

Mistake 4: Not Taking Prescribed Medications

Pain relievers and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help your joints feel better. But they do nothing to stop the joint damage that is going on inside. That requires a more powerful disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD) or biologic response modifier, or both.

Years ago, doctors started RA treatment with aspirin and other pain relievers. If the disease got worse, they then prescribed a DMARD. Today, doctors are likely to prescribe a DMARD or a biologic (or both) early on, particularly for aggressive RA.

In fact, ACR guidelines recommend that all people diagnosed with RA be given a DMARD, regardless of how active or severe their RA is. Studies have shown that starting powerful drugs earlier may be more effective in reducing or preventing joint damage.

If your rheumatologist recommends a DMARD or biologic and you don't take it, you may be risking serious joint damage that cannot be repaired. If you have active RA and your doctor has not recommended one of these drugs, ask if you need one.

Mistake 5: Skipping Medication When You Feel Good

You may be tempted to skip your medications on days when you’re feeling better. But failing to take your medications could cause the pain -- or even your rheumatoid arthritis -- to get worse.

If you take medication for pain and inflammation, you should take it consistently. Missing a dose could cause the pain to return, and it may be more difficult to relieve. The same is true for joint inflammation. It's better to keep it under control than allow it to flare and try to get it under control again.

To control your RA, some medications need to stay in your bloodstream at therapeutic levels. If you miss a dose of medication, you should take it as soon as you remember (but don't take a double dose). If you miss a dose often -- even if you are feeling better at the time -- blood levels of the drug may drop and could cause a flare of your RA.