Woman With Joint Pain Rubbing Hands
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Symptoms Can Hit You Hard

Pain. Fatigue. Stiffness. Swollen joints. You can tell from day to day when rheumatoid arthritis symptoms come at you strong.

 

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X-Ray Image of RA in Hands
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You May Not Notice Early Joint Damage

For some people with RA, this irreversible damage -- even when it isn't flaring -- begins within 2 years of RA diagnosis and progresses over time.

 

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Woman With RA in Her Feet
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Early, Aggressive RA Treatment Can Help

There's no cure for RA. Still, early and aggressive treatments can help prevent further damage to your joints and promote remission.

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Illustration of RA in Knee Joint
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Biologics Can Prevent Joint Damage

With RA, your immune system mistakenly attacks your joints. Aggressive treatments like DMARDs and biologics slow joint damage by working on your defenses. Talk with your doctor about them.

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RA Nodules in Fingers
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When Are Biologics an Option?

If your RA hasn't responded to traditional disease-modifying medications like methotrexate or sulfasalazine, biologics may be able to help. Ask your doctor if it's an option for you.

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Two Out of Three Women Benefit from Biologics
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Do Biologics Help?

They usually help 2 out of 3 people who take them. To improve your odds, doctors frequently prescribe other medications along with the biologic.

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Woman With Cold from Taking Biologics
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Potential Side Effects of Biologics

Like most medications, biologics can come with some side effects. For example, they may increase your chance of infections because they interrupt your immune system.

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Biologic Testing in the Laboratory
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Tell Your Doctor About Infection

Be sure to let your doctor know if you're dealing with an infection before you begin biologics. He'll also screen you for tuberculosis and other diseases and check for hidden infection.

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Doctor Prescribing Medicine for RA
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Biologics Can Be Expensive

Another issue to consider when weighing your options, like with all medications, is cost. So don't be shy about asking your doctor about prescription assistance programs or affordable medication options.

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When To Take Biologic Medicine
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How and When You'll Take a Biologic

That depends on the specific drug your doctor prescribes you. They're given either by intravenous infusion (IV) or a shot.

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Nurse Instructing Patient on Injecting Biologics
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If You Take Biologics by Shot

For shots, you'll be taught how to give them to yourself, so you can be in control. Most shots are needed on an ongoing basis. They're taken anywhere from once a day to once a month.

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Nurse checking intravenous drip tubing and vial
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If You Take Biologics by Infusion

You'll visit your doctor's office or a clinic. IV sessions usually last a couple of hours. At first, treatment may be needed every couple of weeks. After that, it'll be spread out over time. 

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RA Patients Feet in Slippers
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Biologics May Take Time to Work

It may take several weeks before you notice a difference in your swelling, joint pain, or stiffness. Be patient, and stick to your treatment plan.

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Woman Running Through Field
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Can Biologics Cure My RA?

No, but they may make you feel much better. Some people improve so much, they have few if any RA symptoms. That's called "remission on medication."

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Patient With RA Looking at X-Ray With Doctor
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Work With Your Doctor

No matter how you feel, quitting biologics suddenly can put you at risk for a flare. You can find the right treatment plan by working closely with your doctor.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 02/15/2017 Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on February 15, 2017

IMAGES PROVIDED BY:

1)         Philippe Garo/Photo Researchers Inc.

2)         BSIP/Photo Researchers Inc.

3)         Dr. P Marazzi/Photo Researchers Inc.

4)         John Bavosi/Photo Researchers Inc.

5)         ISM/Phototake

6)         Fabrice LeRouge

7)         Ghislain&Marie David de Lossy/The Image Bank

8)         Arno Massee/Photo Researchers Inc.

9)         Larry Williams/Blend Images

10)       Jonnie Miles/Stone, Image Source

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14)       Dave&Les Jacobs/Cultura

15)       Voisin, Phanie/Photo Researchers Inc.

 

 

SOURCES:

University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, MedPage Today: "Biologics and Combinations Top Arthritis Recommendations."

American College of Rheumatology 2008 Recommendations for the Use of Nonbiologic and Biologic Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs in Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Arthritis Today Drug Guide: "Biologics."

Arthritis Today: "When Should I See My Doctor?"

American Academy of Rheumatology: "Biologic Treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis."

AARP Bulletin: "The High Cost of Biologics."

Arthritis Foundation: "Biologics: Learn About These Treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis and Other Diseases."

National Institutes of Health, Medline Plus: "Rheumatoid Arthritis."

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on February 15, 2017

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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