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What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder, meaning the body’s immune system attacks its own healthy cells and tissues, causing inflammation, or swelling, in and around the joints. This may damage the skeletal system. RA can also damage organs, such as the heart and lungs.
The inflammation can be so severe that it affects how the joints and other parts of the body look and function. In the hand, RA can cause deformities in the joints of the fingers, restricting movement. RA can be severe in the foot, hip, and knee as well. Lumps, known as rheumatoid nodules, can form anywhere on the body.
UR Medicine's Treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Early diagnosis and treatment are important. Our experienced team provides diagnostic testing, education, and physical activity programs, along with the latest medicines—some delivered in our state-of-the-art infusion center.
We will also help you coordinate the appointments you need for lab work, x-rays, and other tests.
One of our expert rheumatologists will make a diagnosis based on joint fluid samples, blood tests, x-rays, and ultrasound.
There is no cure for RA, but medications can improve joint pain and swelling and slow down joint damage. For some people, new treatments make it possible to control symptoms to the point there is no sign of active disease.
It’s important to know that no single treatment works for all patients. Our team can adjust to optimize your function and pain control.
- Disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs): Rheumatologists use a combination of these medications to reduce inflammation and protect joints from permanent damage. DMARDS take several weeks to begin working. Examples include hydroxychloroquine, methotrexate, and leflunomide.
- Corticosteroids: These medications are often used early in the disease to control “flares,” or sudden worsening of inflammation. While corticosteroids work quickly, they may have side effects if used for a long time.
- Biologics: Biologics are medications that block proteins which cause joint damage. They can be used with a DMARD or alone.
For RA patients where joint damage has occurred, surgery might be an option. While it doesn’t cure RA, it can improve your ability to enjoy daily activities again. Our expert orthopaedic surgeons can determine if this option will work for you. Learn more about UR Medicine Orthopaedics.
- Diet: What you eat can’t treat symptoms alone, but the right diet for RA can help you feel your best. Foods rich in omega-3s and antioxidants may help control inflammation. UR Medicine nutritionists can help you develop a diet plan that works best for you. Learn how UR Medicine's Improve Nutrition Program can help.
- Exercise: In RA patients, exercise may be more challenging, but it will improve your energy, range of movement, and flexibility as well as increase bone strength and reduce morning stiffness. UR Medicine physical therapists can work with you to devise an exercise regimen. Learn more about UR Medicine Physical Therapy.
- Daily Activities: Having RA can make it more difficult to do everyday things such as opening a jar or reach for objects that are up high and down low. UR Medicine occupational therapists can recommend tools that will allow you to accomplish these tasks more easily. Learn more about UR Medicine Occupational Therapy.
- Smoking Cessation: People who smoke have an increased risk for RA, and smoking makes symptoms for people with RA worse. At UR Medicine our team of physicians, nurse practitioners, and lifestyle counselors can help you develop a plan to quit. Learn more about the UR Medicine Stop Smoking Program.
What Sets Us Apart?
Having an extensive team of experts means we’re able to tailor our care to you and your needs. We offer the area's top specialists, who make sure you and your family get all the vital information about your illness and treatment.
Onsite Infusion Center
Some people with RA and other autoimmune diseases need medications that can‘t be taken at home. Two of our rheumatology clinics (Lattimore Road in Rochester and Red Creek Drive in Henrietta) have an Infusion Center where patients can receive these medications in comfort and with privacy. Nurses in the Infusion Center will also provide patients with support and education.
RA CHAMP Program
For some of our RA patients and their families, it may be harder to find the care and caregivers you need to manage your illness effectively. The only one of its kind in the Rochester region, our RA-CHAMP Program helps you navigate and overcome some of the barriers you face every day. RA-CHAMP can help you:
- Find the care you need in a timely manner
- Bring together and share information with your care providers
- Help you understand the medicines you take and any side effects they might cause
- Help you coordinate any appointments you need for lab work, x-rays, and other tests
- Provide educational and physical activity programs that meet your needs
And because we’re part an academic medical center, we have researchers studying new medications to improve treatment and quality of life for people with RA. We can tell you about studies being done on new medications to treat your illness. If you want to be part of finding potential new cures, you can participate in a clinical study while receiving the newest treatment available.
Our care team is here for you. Find a UR Medicine expert and get care now.View Providers
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We serve you in the Rochester metropolitan area and surrounding region.View All Locations
Patient Education & Support
Our team has developed printable handouts and videos which answer many of the commonly asked questions about diagnosing, treating and living with RA. If you have concerns about RA or your treatment, talk to your doctor.
- What is Rheumatoid Arthritis? (PDF)
- When to See a Rheumatologist (PDF)
- How is Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosed? (PDF)
- What to do when Diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis? (PDF)
- Benefits of Early Treatment (PDF)
- Physical Activity and Rheumatoid Arthritis (PDF)
- Heart Disease in Rheumatoid Arthritis (PDF)
- Your Rheumatoid Arthritis and Medications (PDF)
- What is RA? (1:59, opens in new window)
- Managing RA (2:16, opens in new window
- Beyond Joint Involvement in RA (2:04, opens in new window)
- RA and Nutrition (2:04, opens in new window)
- Exercises and Arthritis (2:03, opens in new window)
- Depression and RA (2:00, opens in new window)
- Vaccines in Immunocompromised Patients (3:19, opens in new window)
- Osteoporosis (1:54, opens in new window)
- Methotrexate (1:56, opens in new window)
- Biologic Medications (2:07, opens in new window)
- What is a Subcutaneous Injection? (1:47, opens in new window)
Our researchers are studying ways to improve treatment and quality of life of people with rheumatoid arthritis. You may wish to help others by participating in a clinical study while receiving the newest treatment available.Email us