Rheumatoid Arthritis (cont.)

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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.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/21/2014

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