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Preventing Joint Damage From Rheumatoid Arthritis

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    If you are diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, your doctor will do a complete joint exam and get X-rays and blood tests. At later visits, you will be checked for any changes to your tests, and your doctor will address possible joint damage with you.

    Because treatment for rheumatoid arthritis is improving, many experts believe that most people who now have it will develop less joint damage than ever before. You can gain control of rheumatoid arthritis and improve your chances by taking the following steps:

    • Get treated early. Much of the joint damage that eventually becomes serious starts soon after rheumatoid arthritis is discovered. The earlier you are treated, the less the chance of joint damage.
    • See your doctor often. People who see their rheumatologist regularly (several times a year) have less joint damage than people who do not.
    • Exercise! You can exercise without causing joint damage. In fact, exercise has the opposite effect -- regular exercise makes joints stronger. Your doctor will help you with an exercise plan that is safe, effective, and personalized for your fitness level and condition.
    • Rest when you need to. Finding the balance between rest and exercise is important so you don't overdo it.
    • Use a cane in the hand opposite a painful hip or knee. This reduces wear-and-tear on the affected joint.

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on June 10, 2013
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