Despite having painful joints, many people are surprised when they’re diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. That’s because the early symptoms of the disabling chronic illness can be easily mistaken for another disease. As the illness progresses, though, it’s common to experience the severe joint pain that’s associated with the autoimmune disorder. Once you’re diagnosed, it will be important to know what to expect. There are likely to be a few changes that can make a big difference when living with rheumatoid arthritis.
1. You May Need A Specialist
Even if you were diagnosed by your usual doctor, it’s likely that they’ll refer you to a rheumatologist. This type of specialist only deals with arthritic conditions and will be knowledgeable about all the available treatments that could work for you.
Before meeting with the specialist, make sure to talk to your primary care physician about how your medical records will be shared so everyone will know what’s happening. This will be especially important for people who have other chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
2. There’ll Be A Medical Regimen
Once you’ve been diagnosed, your doctor’s focus will be on managing your symptoms and preventing flare-ups. You’ll likely be prescribed painkillers, corticosteroids, biologic treatments, or disease‐modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs).
You should always let your doctor know if you think your medications are losing their effectiveness. All of these medications will have side effects so make sure to discuss them with your doctor.
3. The Symptoms Can Get Worse
Swollen, tender, and stiff joints are a characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis. While this may only affect your fingers and toes in the beginning, it can spread to your wrists, ankles, knees, shoulders, and hips over time.
The disease can also affect your skin, heart, lungs, and eyes, among other areas of the body. If this happens, let your doctor know so they can treat you accordingly. In some cases, physical therapy and surgery may be the only options.
4. You’ll Need To Control Flare-ups
People with rheumatoid arthritis often experience flare-ups that have been triggered by a variety of causes. These causes vary but can include certain foods, chemicals, stressful situations, and even changes in your medication. If you’re having a flare-up, you can expect