"The “Take Control” Time line:
After receiving an RA diagnosis, follow this general guideline for what should happen in the first two years. Everybody is different, however, so talk to your doctor about the course of treatment that's likely to work for you. "If you are functioning as you need to for your life, your arthritis is well controlled and you're not having excess pain, then your treatment is on target," says Arthur Kavanaugh, MD, rheumatologist and director of the Center for Innovative Therapy at the University of California, San Diego.
At the first sign of symptoms:
Make an appointment with a physician for a diagnosis. Joint damage will be assessed using MRI or X-ray. Prognosis will be estimated based on age, test results and the presence of other rheumatic conditions, such as Sjögren's syndrome, and any involvement of the lungs, heart, spleen or blood vessels.
Within two months:
Methotrexate usually will be the first disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD) prescribed. Methotrexate takes one to two months to show benefit, so consider a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) or analgesic for pain while the methotrexate begins to work.
Within six months:
If methotrexate is not working by now, your doctor may switch you to another DMARD or add a biologic agent. Monthly or bimonthly liver function tests will be done if you're taking Arava, methotrexate or Remicade; periodically if you take cyclosporine; and yearly if you're taking salicylates or other NSAIDs.
By one year:
If examinations and tests show disease activity, progression or joint damage, your doctor may step up your medication.
After two years:
Disease activity and progression will be monitored at each visit. Discuss the effectiveness of your medications and any health problems you experience with your doctor.
Continue to learn about your condition, exercise regularly, eat well, lose weight if necessary, stay socially active and protect your joints.
~Arthritis Foundation, Posted 5/8/07, May-June 2007."
The main thing in all of this, however, is not to loose courage and faith. For those of you just diagnosed with RA, take this from this ol' gal, who has been living with it for 19 years now: the meds these days are so good, you won't have to live in and with pain anymore, and the deformities can be stopped before they happen! Yes, you may have to adjust your life some, but... God may close one door, but He will always open others! :-)
The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him.