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Rheumatoid Arthritis


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) 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).


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.


  • Antibiotics fight or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Antirheumatics help slow the progress of RA, and reduce pain, stiffness, and inflammation.
  • Pain medicine may be given. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you ask for more medicine.
  • Steroids: This medicine may be given to decrease inflammation.
  • Biologic therapy helps your immune system fight the disease. These medicines increase the risk of serious infection and require careful monitoring.


  • Blood tests may be used to check for signs of infection or inflammation.
  • X-ray or MRI pictures may be taken of the bones and tissues in your joints. You may be given contrast liquid as a shot into the joint to help your joint show up better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.
  • Arthrocentesis is a procedure used to drain fluid out of a joint. The fluid is tested for infection or other problems that can cause arthritis.
  • Synovial biopsy may be used if your joint fluid cannot be drained or if you have signs of an infection. A piece of tissue is removed from the lining of a joint. The tissue is tested for possible causes of your arthritis.


  • Physical and occupational therapy can help you find new ways to manage your RA. A physical therapist can teach you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain. An occupational therapist can teach you skills to help with your daily activities.
  • Surgery may be done to take out all or part of the joint and put in an artificial joint. This may be help reduce pain and to repair the joint. Surgery may also be done if you have a joint infection or if the bones in your spine are pressing on nerves.


Left untreated, RA can be very painful and may cause difficulty with your normal daily activities. It may involve other organs in the body, such as the eyes, heart, or liver.


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.

© 2016 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.

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.