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Rheumatoid Arthritis, Ambulatory Care

Rheumatoid arthritis

is a long-term autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and damage to your joints. RA causes your body's immune system to attack the synovial membrane (lining) in your joints. RA can also affect other organs, such as your eyes, heart, or lungs. It may also increase your risk of osteoporosis (weakened bones).

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Joint pain and stiffness that lasts longer than 1 hour
  • Swollen joints in the same joint on both sides of your body
  • Loss of joint movement
  • Firm, round nodules (growths) on your joints
  • Fatigue or muscle weakness
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss

Seek immediate care for the following symptoms:

  • Increased joint swelling, pain, or redness
  • Sudden shortness of breath
  • Numbness in your hands, feet, or on one side of your body
  • Unable to control the urge to have a bowel movement or to urinate

Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis

may include any of the following:

  • Antirheumatics help slow the progress of RA, and reduce pain, stiffness, and inflammation.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Steroids help decrease inflammation.
  • Biologic therapy helps decrease joint swelling, pain, and stiffness. These medicines increase the risk of serious infection and require careful monitoring.
  • Surgery may be needed to remove all or part of your joint. An implant may be placed to help reduce pain and repair the joint.

Manage your symptoms:

  • Go to physical therapy as directed. A physical therapist can teach you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain
  • Use support devices. You may be given splints or braces to help your joints rest and to decrease inflammation.
  • Rest when your joints are painful. Limit your activities until your symptoms improve. Gradually start your normal activities when you can do them without pain. Avoid motions and activities that cause strain on your joints, such as heavy exercise and lifting.
  • Apply ice or heat. Both can help decrease swelling and pain. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel and place it on your joint for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. You can apply heat for 20 minutes every 2 hours. Heat treatment includes hot packs or a warm compress.
  • Maintain a healthy weight to decrease the strain on joints in your back, knees, ankles, and feet. Ask your healthcare provider how much you should weigh. Ask him to help you create a weight loss plan if you are overweight.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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