Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Catherine Burt Driver, MD
    Catherine Burt Driver, MD

    Catherine Burt Driver, MD

    Catherine Burt Driver, MD, is board certified in internal medicine and rheumatology by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Driver is a member of the American College of Rheumatology. She currently is in active practice in the field of rheumatology in Mission Viejo, Calif., where she is a partner in Mission Internal Medical Group.

View Rheumatoid Arthritis Slideshow Pictures

Quick GuideRheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Pictures Slideshow

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Pictures Slideshow

What about rheumatoid arthritis and pregnancy?

In general, rheumatoid arthritis often improves during pregnancy. It is commonplace for the rheumatoid joint inflammation to decrease and be minimized during pregnancy. Unfortunately, this reduction of joint inflammation during pregnancy is not usually sustained after delivery.

Medications that are commonly used to treat inflammation, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs including ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), naproxen (Aleve), and others, are not used during pregnancy. Drugs that are used to stop the progression of rheumatoid disease, such as methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall) and cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), are not used during pregnancy and also must be discontinued well in advance of conception because of potential risks to the fetus. Biologic medications are avoided during pregnancy when possible.

When rheumatoid arthritis is active during pregnancy, steroid medications such as prednisone and prednisolone are often used to quiet the joint inflammation. These medications do not adversely affect the fetus.

What is the prognosis (outlook) for patients with rheumatoid arthritis?

With early, aggressive treatment, the outlook for those affected by rheumatoid arthritis can be very good. The overall attitude regarding ability to control the disease has changed tremendously since the turn of the century. Doctors now strive to eradicate any signs of active disease while preventing flare-ups. The disease can be controlled and a cooperative effort by the doctor and patient can lead to optimal health.

Rheumatoid arthritis causes disability and can increase mortality and decrease life expectancy to lead to an early death. Patients have a less favorable outlook when they have deformity, disability, ongoing uncontrolled joint inflammation, and/or rheumatoid disease affecting other organs of the body. Overall, rheumatoid arthritis tends to be potentially more damaging when rheumatoid factor or citrulline antibody is demonstrated by blood testing. Life expectancy improves with earlier treatment and monitoring.

Finally, minimizing emotional stress can help improve the overall health in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Support and extracurricular groups provide those with rheumatoid arthritis time to discuss their problems with others and learn more about their illness.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/10/2016
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