Medically Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on January 20, 2022
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Tell Your Doctor About Infection

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

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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:

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."