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Rheumatoid Arthritis: Avoiding 6 Common Mistakes

Mistake 4: Not Taking Prescribed Medications continued...

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.

Mistake 6: Accepting Depression

Living with RA isn't easy. It can be painful and unpredictable and make it hard to do the things you enjoy. It's understandable that you may become sad at times, but you don't have to accept depression as a part of your disease.

Ask your doctor to refer you to a mental health professional who works with people with chronic diseases. Counseling may help you develop better skills for coping with RA. Attending a support group, such as those offered by the Arthritis Foundation, may also help.

If you still experience feelings of depression, let your doctor know. Some people with rheumatoid arthritis benefit from taking antidepressants. Simply accepting depression can take the joy out of life and make it more difficult to manage your disease.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on June 25, 2013

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