First Steps Toward RA Treatment

A chronic disease can be a lot to deal with. Focus on these four things to start managing rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

If you just learned you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you may have mixed feelings. You might be worried about the future. You may be relieved to finally know what’s wrong. You might be confused about what to do next. Take these steps to get going in the right direction.

Learn All You Can

RA is a complex disease. Read about it and ask your doctor questions. You probably first went to the doctor because of joint pain and swelling. But RA can affect many parts of your body. Talk to your rheumatologist about the different ways RA attacks your joints and organs. Learn how to control the disease.

Open Lines of Communication

Be sure your primary care physician (PCP) and your rheumatologist share information. Rheumatologists focus on RA and your PCP handles other health problems, like diabetes, high blood pressure and osteoporosis. But each needs to know what the other is doing. Your job is to choose your doctors and ensure they talk to each other. Many insurance companies have people who will help you coordinate your treatment.

If you can’t find a rheumatologist near you, video office visits may be an option

Engage in Shared Decision Making

Shared decision making is when you work with your doctors to make decisions based on what you care about most. In RA, shared decision making is the basis of treat-to-target (T2T). In T2T, you and your doctor decide on a treatment goal and adjust your medication every few months until you reach it. Your input is key. 

A good doctor-patient relationship is built on trust. You understand and respect your doctor’s point of view. Your doctor, in turn, understands and respects yours. This kind of medical teamwork improves care and health outcomes

Get Connected

It’s easy to feel down when you have RA. Connect with others who understand how you feel to improve your mood and outlook. Online or local support groups can help. The Arthritis Foundation’s LiveYes Network is a great place to start. There’s an online community for people living with RA as well as LiveYes connect groups around the country. You can volunteer with through one of our local offices or attend a Walk to Cure Arthritis or Jingle Bell run in your city. Or you can take up a team sport, join a book club, or volunteer for a cause you believe in. 

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