Twen­ty years ago, my life took a hard-right turn: I was diag­nosed with rheuma­toid arthri­tis. With­in 5 years I had to quit my job, could bare­ly walk, had major stiff­ness and fatigue every morn­ing and evening; my joints were pro­gres­sive­ly being dam­aged. I cycled in and out of depres­sion. Soon my life took anoth­er turn, one for the bet­ter. I got on a drug regime that sta­bi­lized my dis­ease.
I still have my good and bad days but I have peo­ple to turn to for help.  I hope I nev­er feel that way again.

IN 2016, THE U.S. EXPERIENCED

300,000
Babies and chil­dren have arthri­tis or a rheumat­ic con­di­tion.
78
Mil­lion peo­ple expect­ed to have doc­tor-diag­nosed arthri­tis by the year 2040
54
Mil­lion adults have doc­tor-diag­nosed arthri­tis.
31
Mil­lion Amer­i­cans have the most com­mon type of arthri­tis which is osteoarthri­tis

Of adults in the U.S. with arthri­tis are of work­ing age

75%

Per­cent of adults with heart dis­ease have arthri­tis

49%

Per­cent of adults with dia­betes have arthri­tis

47%

Per­cent of adults who are obese have arthri­tis

35%
Judy – Age 74 – Baltimore, Maryland

Judy – Age 74 – Baltimore, Maryland

Rheuma­toid Arthri­tis

Anthony – Age 54 – Madison, Wisconsin

Anthony – Age 54 – Madison, Wisconsin

Rheuma­toid Arthri­tis

Joan – Age 45 – Chattahoochee, Georgia

Joan – Age 45 – Chattahoochee, Georgia

Rheuma­toid Arthri­tis

Stephen – Age 11 – Bogalusa, Louisiana

Stephen – Age 11 – Bogalusa, Louisiana

Rheuma­toid Arthri­tis

Arthri­tis Foun­da­tionThis is a nation­al not-for-prof­it group that pro­vides a wealth of infor­ma­tion and sup­port for all types of arthri­tis, includ­ing RAOn the web site, you can learn more about rheuma­toid arthri­tis, review the lat­est stud­ies, and even find sup­port with oth­ers who have the con­di­tion.Amer­i­can Col­lege of Rheuma­tol­ogyThe ACR is a promi­nent orga­ni­za­tion of doc­tors, sci­en­tists, and health care experts. On the ACR site, you can find infor­ma­tion on the lat­est edu­ca­tion­al pro­grams, top­i­cal research, and rec­om­mend­ed med­ica­tions. There is also a sec­tion for peo­ple who aren’t doc­tors that explains rheumat­ic dis­eases and con­di­tions, and sup­port for care­givers.Arthri­tis Foun­da­tionThis is a nation­al not-for-prof­it group that pro­vides a wealth of infor­ma­tion and sup­port for all types of arthri­tis, includ­ing RAOn the web site, you can learn more about rheuma­toid arthri­tis, review the lat­est stud­ies, and even find sup­port with oth­ers who have the con­di­tion.Amer­i­can Col­lege of Rheuma­tol­ogyThe ACR is a promi­nent orga­ni­za­tion of doc­tors, sci­en­tists, and health care experts. On the ACR site, you can find infor­ma­tion on the lat­est edu­ca­tion­al pro­grams, top­i­cal research, and rec­om­mend­ed med­ica­tions. There is also a sec­tion for peo­ple who aren’t doc­tors that explains rheumat­ic dis­eases and con­di­tions, and sup­port for care­givers.

NCCAM, part of the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health, pro­vides a lot of insight, infor­ma­tion, and research on com­ple­men­tary and alter­na­tive med­i­cines. On the NCCAM site, you’ll find cut­ting-edge infor­ma­tion, includ­ing top­ics such as acupunc­ture, botan­i­cals, and sup­ple­ments.

Nation­al Insti­tute of Arthri­tis and Mus­cu­loskele­tal and Skin Dis­eases

NIAMS, part of the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health, is a large group of pro­fes­sion­als that sup­port ongo­ing research in arthri­tis and mus­cu­loskele­tal and skin dis­eases. The NIAMS web site includes infor­ma­tion on arthri­tis, back paingoutknee prob­lems, osteoarthri­tisrheuma­toid arthri­tis, and more.

Liv­ing with rheuma­toid arthri­tis can be a chal­lenge. Luck­i­ly, you don’t have to do it alone. You can build a great team of pro­fes­sion­al health care providers who will help you. There are sev­er­al key play­ers you should turn to.Your Rheuma­tol­o­gistThis is a med­ical doc­tor who spe­cial­izes in arthri­tis and oth­er joint and mus­cle dis­eases. She’s the star of your RA treat­ment team. You’ll see her reg­u­lar­ly. She’ll keep your treat­ment on track and work with you to man­age your condition.You should tell your rheuma­tol­o­gist how you’re doing, includ­ing any activ­i­ties that give you trou­ble or ques­tions you have about your med­i­cine. She can also put you in touch with oth­er pros you want on your team.Your Reg­u­lar Doc­torYou may also see a pri­ma­ry care doc­tor, who will work with you on your over­all health. You’ll see her for check­ups. She can also give you refer­rals to oth­er spe­cial­ists.Your Phys­i­cal Ther­a­pistPTs help you get stronger. They can make an exer­cise plan for you. Remem­ber, your joints will be health­i­er if you’re active. Your PT will help make that hap­pen.

Your Occu­pa­tion­al Ther­a­pist

If rheuma­toid arthri­tis starts to slow you down, or if dai­ly tasks become hard, a vis­it with an occu­pa­tion­al ther­a­pist will prob­a­bly help. They have a play­book of “work-arounds” to let you con­tin­ue to live your own way. They can also pro­vide or rec­om­mend assis­tive devices that will smooth out the rough spots in your dai­ly rou­tine, like spe­cial gad­gets to make cook­ing or com­put­er work eas­i­er.

Your Psy­chol­o­gist, Psy­chi­a­trist, or Social Work­er

RA can be stress­ful. Don’t hes­i­tate to see a pro­fes­sion­al if it starts to get to you. Often, talk­ing things through can help you find dif­fer­ent approach­es that will work bet­ter for you.

Social work­ers can help you nav­i­gate the health care sys­tem, coun­sel you dur­ing tough times, and help you find com­mu­ni­ty or gov­ern­ment resources to get more care and sup­port.

Psy­chol­o­gists and psy­chi­a­trists pro­vide coun­sel­ing, psy­chother­a­py, or stress man­age­ment ther­a­py. Psy­chi­a­trists can also pre­scribe med­ica­tion, such as anti­de­pres­sants, if need­ed.

Your Ortho­pe­dic Sur­geon

You may nev­er need surgery for your RA. Today’s med­i­cines can stop or slow down the dis­ease. If how­ev­er there is a lot of joint dam­age that is affect­ing your abil­i­ty to func­tion your rheuma­tol­o­gist may refer you for surgery such as joint replace­ment.

4 Tips to Work With Your Team

1. Bring your med­ical record with you to your appoint­ment.

2. Com­mu­ni­cate. Make sure each team mem­ber knows about impor­tant changes, like recent surg­eries, hos­pi­tal­iza­tions, or changes in what med­ica­tions you take.

3. Keep your appoint­ments.

4. Ask ques­tions. You should be able to ask any of the peo­ple on your team about any­thing that’s on your mind.