Rheumatoid arthritis is most often treated with medicine, exercise, and lifestyle
changes. Treatment may help relieve symptoms and control the disease, but there
is no cure. Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis usually continues throughout
your life, but it will vary depending on:
- The stage (active or in
remission) and severity of your
- Your treatment history.
- The benefits and risks
of treatment options.
- Your preferences for treatment options, such
as cost, side effects, and daily schedules.
The goal of treatment is to help you maintain your
lifestyle, reduce joint pain, slow joint damage, and prevent disability.
Making a plan
rheumatoid arthritis should start with education about
the disease, the possibility of joint damage and disability, and the risks and
benefits of potential treatments. A long-term treatment plan should be
developed by you and your team of doctors.
Treatment with medicines
Early and ongoing treatment of
RA with medicines called disease-modifying antirheumatic
drugs (DMARDs) can slow or sometimes prevent joint
destruction.3 Other medicines may be combined with DMARDs to relieve symptoms. These medicines include:
For more information, see Medications.
rheumatoid arthritis usually continues throughout your
life. Your doctor will want to closely monitor your condition. A
rheumatologist should evaluate you regularly. Depending on your symptoms and
treatment, this could be done as often as every 2 to 3 months or every 6 to 12 months. Testing, such as blood tests, may be done
During each follow-up visit, your doctor will assess:
- The amount of joint pain.
- How long
morning stiffness lasts.
- The number of actively inflamed
- How well you are functioning.
- Results of lab tests.
In some cases, the disease does not respond to
the first several treatments. When this happens, the disease may be
treated with much higher doses of medicines or with different combinations of
Surgery may be considered when the joints-especially the hips,
knees, or feet-are severely damaged or deformed and are causing extreme pain.
Surgery may include total joint replacement or other techniques to improve
joint function. For more information, see Surgery and Other Treatment.
Exercise and lifestyle changes
Exercise, physical therapy, and lifestyle
changes can help relieve joint pain. Many people with RA
benefit from self-care plans that balance rest and activity. You can take steps at home to relieve your symptoms and help control your disease. For more information, see Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis.