Understanding RA: What to Expect in the Long Term
The long-term effects of RA left untreated or not treated effectively may include permanent joint damage, deformity, disability and loss of function and mobility.
These effects can even have a negative effect on your quality of life. It can be difficult to cope with losing the ability to perform activities that were once easy for you — from small, everyday tasks like getting dressed, to responsibilities at home and work, and even the things you simply enjoy doing.
But I've got good news for you. With a little advance planning, a lot of positive thinking, and support from your healthcare team, family, and friends, you can help prevent these long-term effects from having a major impact on your life and your health.
Remember, there's no way to tell exactly how your RA will progress, but there are ways that you can help influence your long-term outlook:
It's always a good idea to learn all you can about RA. Get an understanding of what’s happening in your body. Stay up-to-date on any new research or treatments that may be available, as advances are being made all the time.
You should also regularly monitor your symptoms, which joints are affected, your ability to function normally, and even how you’re feeling emotionally. It may help to keep a journal to track such changes, both good and bad.
This brings me to my next word of advice: communicate with your rheumatologist often and effectively. The journal I mentioned before can help you remember everything you've experienced since your last conversation with the doctor. If you choose not to keep a journal, there are helpful discussion guides on the Web, including one right here at RheumatoidArthritis.com, that can help get you talking. You can even use this guide to write down questions you want to ask and any information the doctor gives you. And remember…the more your doctor knows, the more likely he or she will have the necessary information to prescribe appropriate treatment
And finally, find an RA treatment that is right for you. This may be a process of trial and error, and that is normal. But by staying on top of your condition, communicating effectively with your doctor, and taking care of your joints accordingly, you have a better chance at finding a treatment option that suits your needs.
You may be taking steps to help control rheumatoid arthritis (RA) symptoms like joint pain, inflammation and stiffness, along with fatigue. However, RA is a disease that progresses over time, so it is also important to think about the long-term effects that RA can have and the ways you can help influence its course.
If left untreated, the long-term physical effects of RA may include permanent joint damage, deformity, disability and loss of function and mobility. Rheumatoid arthritis can also lead to poor quality of life. You may have difficulty doing activities that were once easy for you. These activities can range from small, everyday tasks like buttoning a shirt, to responsibilities at home and work, to things you simply enjoy doing. The good news is that there are ways to get a head start on preventing these long-term effects from having a major impact on your life and your health.
What you can do now
There's no way to tell exactly how your RA will progress, but the following steps can help influence your long-term outcome:
- Learning all you can about RA, including what's happening in your body, signs and symptoms, treatments and coping strategies
- Monitoring symptoms like pain, fatigue, swelling and tenderness, as well as your ability to function normally, which joints are affected and even how the disease affects you emotionally
- Communicating with your rheumatologist — the more your doctor knows, the more likely you will be prescribed appropriate treatment
- Finding an RA treatment that is right for you
These steps can also help you become an active member in your own healthcare.
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