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Get Your Medicine Right

Biologic drugs can make a big difference in your RA. They bring down inflammation to prevent joint damage, but it can take some trial and error to figure out which medicine and dose is right for you. Up to 40% of people with RA don't find relief from the first one they try. If you don't see improvement in 3 months, your doctor may change the amount you take or suggest you try a different medicine.

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eating salad
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Try Foods That Fight Inflammation

Eat healthy while you're taking a biologic. The best diet for RA is big on fruits, veggies, fish, nuts, and beans. Go easy on processed and fried foods.

Check out these inflammation-busters:

  • Fatty fish like tuna, salmon, and sardines
  • Nuts such as walnuts, almonds, and pistachios
  • Berries and citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit
  • Green vegetables like broccoli, spinach, and kale
  • Beans, including red and kidney beans
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woman relaxing
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Get Enough Rest

Fight fatigue with an energy-boosting plan. Take short breaks during the day so you can rest and regroup between activities. Go to bed at the same time each night to make sure you get enough sleep. And try to exercise every day. A morning walk or bike ride will perk you up and help you get better ZZZs at night.

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weight training
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Stay Active

Pain and swelling might lead you to take it easy, but too much rest can make your RA worse. To keep flexible and strengthen the muscles that support your joints, you need to get moving. The best fitness program for RA combines exercise that gets your heart pumping, strength training, and stretching. Walking, swimming, and cycling are all safe, low-impact activities.

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Prevent Infections

Biologic drugs curb your immune system, your body's defense against germs, so your RA won't attack and damage your joints. The downside is that you may have a bigger chance of getting an infection. To avoid getting sick, stay up to date on vaccines for the flu, pneumonia, shingles, and other diseases. Wash your hands often with warm water and soap, or use a hand sanitizer to keep germs away.

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Patient checkup
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Get Regular Checkups

Biologics aren't a quick fix. It can take time to get your RA under control. You'll see your doctor every few months to make sure your treatment works and to keep tabs on side effects. If your joints don't improve, your doctor might adjust the dose of your medicine or switch you to a new one. See your doctor if your arthritis flares up between checkups.

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Prescription meds
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Avoid Drug Interactions

Biologics may not mix well with your other meds and could cause side effects. Let your pharmacist and doctor know whenever there's a change in the drugs or supplements you take, including over-the-counter medicine. Also let them know about any changes to your health, like whether you have diabetes or you're pregnant. Go over your entire medication list with your doctor at your yearly checkup. 

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woman stretching
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Sweep Away Stress

If you're always anxious, it can add to your RA trouble. People who worry a lot have more pain and swelling in their joints than those who take things in stride. To ease stress, take a few minutes to relax each day. Exercise triggers the release of feel-good chemicals in your brain, so go for a walk or ride your bike. Or try yoga, which blends fitness with deep breathing.

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quit smoking
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If You Smoke, Quit

You probably know that the tobacco habit is bad for your heart and lungs, but it also harms your joints. Smoking can make your inflammation and pain worse, and it can make RA harder to control. Lighting up may also affect how well your biologic works. Ask your doctor for ideas on ways to quit, such as nicotine replacement products.

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measuring waistline
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Stay at a Healthy Weight

When you carry around extra pounds, it puts strain on your joints. Fat also directly affects RA by releasing chemicals that add to inflammation. And if you're overweight or obese, your biologics may not work as well. Talk to your doctor about the best way to slim down.

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ice pack
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Get Relief With Heat and Cold

Biologics are just one way to ease RA pain and swelling. Heat and cold also soothe achy joints. Warmth from a heating pad or wet towel increases blood flow to your joints and relaxes tight muscles. Cold from an ice or frozen gel pack numbs painful joints and brings down inflammation. Alternate cold and heat, or use the method that feels best.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 09/06/2019 Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on September 06, 2019


1) Thinkstock Photos


Arthritis Foundation: "Biologics Drug Guide," "Combating High Disease Activity in Early RA," "How Fat Affects Rheumatoid Arthritis," "How to Beat Arthritis Fatigue," "Stress and Worry Affect RA," "The Ultimate Arthritis Diet."

Arthritis Research & Therapy: "Treatment options in patients with rheumatoid arthritis failing initial TNF inhibitor therapy: a critical review."

International Journal of Molecular Sciences: "Smoking and Rheumatoid Arthritis."

Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center: "Side Effects of Biologic Medications."

Mayo Clinic: "Is there a connection between rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups and stress?" "Rheumatoid arthritis: Protect your health with vaccines," "Rheumatoid arthritis: Self-management," "Smoking and rheumatoid arthritis: What's the risk?"

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence: "The management of rheumatoid arthritis in adults."

UpToDate: "Patient education: Rheumatoid arthritis treatment (Beyond the Basics)."

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on September 06, 2019

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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