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What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

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How Do Doctors Diagnose Rheumatoid Arthritis?

There is no single test that shows whether you have RA. Your doctor will give you a checkup, ask you about your symptoms, and possibly give you X-rays and blood tests. 

How Is RA Treated?

Treatments include medications, rest and exercise, and, in some cases, surgery to correct joint damage.

Your treatment will depend on several things, including your age, overall health, medical history, and how severe your case is.

Medications

Many rheumatoid arthritis medications can lower joint pain, swelling, and inflammation. Some of these drugs prevent or slow down the disease.

Drugs that ease joint pain, stiffness, and swelling include:

Other drugs work on your immune system to stop it from attacking your joints.

Why Are Rest and Exercise Important for RA?

You need to be active, but you also have to pace yourself. During flare-ups, when joint inflammation gets worse, it’s best to rest the joints. Using a cane or joint splints can help during flare-ups.

When joint inflammation gets better, you need to exercise to your keep joints flexible and to strengthen the muscles that surround them. Low-impact activities, such as brisk walking or swimming, and gentle stretching can help. You may want to work with a physical therapist at first.

When Is Surgery Needed?

When joint damage from the rheumatoid arthritis has become severe or pain is not controlled with drugs, surgery may help.

Is There a Cure?

Although there isn't a cure for RA, prompt treatment can help you stay active.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on April 30, 2012
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