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6 Life Hacks for Your Rheumatoid Arthritis

By Camille Noe Pagán
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by David Zelman, MD

When Kelly Ann Pierce was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) at age 15, she didn’t know anything about it. Now 42, Pierce is practically an expert. And if there’s anything she’s learned over the past 27 years, “it’s that you can have a good, full life, even with RA,” she says.               

Like most people with RA, Pierce has tough days when she’s really tired or in pain. But she still excels in her career as a sales administrator, regularly cheers on the Chicago Blackhawks with her husband, and travels. “If I’m tired, I take breaks. If I’m concerned about my medications, I see my doctor. When you have RA, you learn to adjust,” Pierce says.               

The key to living well with RA is to stay flexible. “Even if you didn’t have RA, life would change as you get older. Look at your experience as discovery and work to figure out what works best for you,” says Julia Kim, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.

 You can balance the realities of RA and your everyday life with these six strategies.  

Be tight with your rheumatologist. You sometimes have pain, swelling, stiffness in your joints. You might be tired, too. But you shouldn’t have these problems all the time. Your doctor needs to know if you do. 

“He should be monitoring your symptoms closely,” says Matthew Husa, MD, assistant professor of rheumatology at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “If a few months of initial treatment don’t lead to an improvement, it’s a sign you need to try a new approach.”

As a good rule of thumb, any symptom that lasts for more than an hour can be a sign you’re having a flare-up or could be related to another condition.               

You should feel comfortable talking to your rheumatologist about all aspects of your life. “That includes your mood and how RA is affecting your sex life and relationships,” says Orrin Troum, MD, a rheumatologist at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, CA. “If it doesn’t seem like your doctor’s listening to you and is on the same page as you, consider seeing someone else.”

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