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Now, the Good News

Now, this list may seem pretty scary. But remember: Although people with RA have a higher risk of some of these problems, your personal risk may be quite small, Bingham says.

"As we've been treating RA more aggressively, we're seeing less and less of these complications," Bingham says. For instance, nodules and vasculitis are much less common than they were in the 1990s.

Protect Yourself

If you're concerned about how RA affects your body, you can do a lot to lower your risks.

  • Take your meds. Remember: RA treatment -- with DMARDs -- will help your joints and slow the progression of RA.
  • See your rheumatologist. If you're not already seeing an RA doctor, schedule a visit. Medical problems are more likely if your disease is severe or not treated. With regular check-ups and screening, your RA doctor can catch problems before they become serious.
  • Watch for infections. See your doctor at the first sign of an infection. If you delay, your symptoms may be much harder to treat.
  • Protect your heart. Like anyone at risk for heart disease, you should stick to a heart-healthy lifestyle. Get advice from your doctor. But a healthy diet, regular exercise, and not smoking are all important.
  • See other specialists. You may need the help of other experts. To prevent eye problems, see an eye doctor once a year. You may need bone density tests and screenings by a skin or heart doctor. If you think you might be depressed, see a mental health counselor or therapist as soon as you can.
  • Stay upbeat. When you have RA, it's easy to worry. Just remember that your overall risk of other problems is low. You can treat and prevent most of them.

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