Managing Your Rheumatoid Arthritis

What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation, which leads to joint swelling and chronic joint pain. While your smaller joints tend to be affected first at the onset of the disease (finger joints and toe joints), RA symptoms often spread to other parts of the body as the disease progresses. RA also tends to affect joints in symmetrical patterns; in other words, if one knee or hand is affected, the other one usually is too.

About 40% of people with RA also experience signs and symptoms that don’t involve the joints. Other parts of the body, including the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, and blood vessels, can also be affected.

The exact causes of RA are unknown, but it is thought to develop from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Common Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis:

  • Joint pain
  • Tender, warm, swollen joints
  • Morning stiffness
  • Fatigue
  • A general sense of feeling unwell

Factors That May Increase Your Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis:

  • Women are more likely than men to develop RA
  • Middle age is when RA typically develops, though it can occur at any age
  • Family history of RA
  • Smoking, especially if you have a genetic predisposition for RA
  • Environmental exposures to asbestos or silica
  • Obesity, especially in women age 55 and younger

The Impact of RA Symptoms


Once it develops, RA is a lifelong condition. Living with RA can take a toll over time. Physically, joint symptoms can impact your ability to perform everyday activities and care for your family, while emotionally, you may not feel like participating in social activities or like you're to do your best at work. Talking to your rheumatologist can help you achieve better results in managing RA symptoms.

To help manage your RA diagnosis, download our Doctor Discussion Guide to inform your next appointment with your rheumatologist. Through open conversation with your doctor about how symptoms are affecting you physically and emotionally, together you can decide your best plan for treatment.

There are so many different faces for RA, and it’s not relegated to one age group. If you are scared because of the information that you’ve read... have a conversation with your doctor. Take that opportunity; don’t let it pass you by. Because you have one life.

- Meg, CIMZIA patientIndividual results may vary.

Diagnosing Rheumatoid Arthritis


An RA diagnosis can be difficult to make at first because early signs and symptoms may be similar to those of many other diseases. There is no single test that can definitively diagnose someone with RA.

For these reasons, it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms and address them with a specialist trained to diagnose and treat RA. A rheumatologist will be familiar with the condition and will know where to look to confirm the disease—and can determine how severe it is. Often the first step is performing a physical exam to check your joints for common RA symptoms (swelling, warmth, and redness), as well as reflexes, muscle strength, and overall function.

Rheumatoid Factor and Other Diagnostic Tests

One common test to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis checks for high levels of rheumatoid factor (or RA factor), an antibody present in the blood of many patients with RA.

Other steps of the diagnostic process may include, but are not limited to:

  • Checking for elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) or C-reactive protein (CRP), which indicate inflammation
  • X-rays to help track the progression of RA
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and ultrasound tests to determine the severity of RA

They went through a whole bevy of things they thought it might be: fibromyalgia, lupus... they finally [performed] an RA factor test and then went through a range-of-motion series. That’s when I was officially diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

- Meg, CIMZIA patientIndividual results may vary.

How To Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis


While there is no cure for RA, early recognition, diagnosis, and treatment are critical to getting your condition under control as early as possible.

Even though the progression of RA varies from person to person, for most people it can worsen over time and potentially require surgery if it isn’t managed properly. That’s why it’s so important to talk to your rheumatologist to fully understand the complexities of RA throughout your treatment experience.

CIMZIA® (certolizumab pegol), as a biologic for rheumatoid arthritis, works inside the body and may help people with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis achieve results even when other treatment options haven't worked. Ask your rheumatologist how CIMZIA may work for you.

Tips for rheumatoid arthritis treatment:

  • Exercise can help. Talk with your rheumatologist about creating an exercise plan that’s right for you.
  • Assistive devices may ease the stress on your joints. Ask your doctor for recommendations on kitchen tools and other items that can help protect your joints and make activities easier for you to complete.
  • Support is available. For people prescribed CIMZIA, the CIMplicity® program is designed to help you start and stay on treatment with confidence.* For financial assistance options, refresher training on treatment, and more, enroll now.*

Manage Your RA With Confidence

By keeping track of your symptoms, writing down any questions you have, and being open with your rheumatologist about what you’re experiencing, you can find the treatment that’s most appropriate for you, even if you’ve been on other rheumatoid arthritis treatments before. To ensure a productive conversation at your next appointment, download our Doctor Discussion Guide.

*The CIMplicity program is provided as a service of UCB and is intended to support the appropriate use of CIMZIA. The CIMplicity program may be amended or canceled at any time without notice. Some program and eligibility restrictions may apply.

I would say RA is almost like an afterthought to me now.

- Diedra, CIMZIA patientIndividual results may vary.

Resources For Support

  • CIMplicity® is a free program that provides support at each step of your experience when treating your RA with CIMZIA (certolizumab pegol). For more details, enroll now.*
  • The American College of Rheumatology works to advance rheumatology treatment through programs to improve care for people with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases and arthritis.
  • Working to advance the treatment of more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions, the Arthritis Foundation also has a helpline available at 1-844-571-HELP.
  • Arthritis Today is the consumer health magazine published by the Arthritis Foundation.
  • The National Data Bank (NDB) for Rheumatic Diseases is the largest patient-reported research data bank for rheumatic disorders in the United States. The NDB works to improve treatment outcomes for people with rheumatic disorders.
  • The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases supports research into the causes, treatment, and prevention of arthritis and of musculoskeletal and skin diseases.

*The CIMplicity program is provided as a service of UCB and is intended to support the appropriate use of CIMZIA. The CIMplicity program may be amended or canceled at any time without notice. Some program and eligibility restrictions may apply.


Hear from RA patients taking CIMZIA.

Hear From Real CIMZIA Patients

Get to know how actual RA patients found relief and support with CIMZIA.

Individual results may vary.

Common Rheumatoid Arthritis Questions

How do I know I have rheumatoid arthritis?

A rheumatologist will know where to look to confirm if you have RA, which is why it’s important to be open and honest with your doctor about all of your symptoms and the effect they have on your daily life. In addition to being aware of your symptoms, your doctor may also perform a blood test to confirm if it’s RA.

What are usually the first signs of rheumatoid arthritis?

Some of the early symptoms of RA include, but are not limited to, tender or swollen joints, joint stiffness in the early hours of the morning, and fatigue.

What are 3 common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?

Three common symptoms of RA are tender, warm, swollen joints; joint pain; and fatigue. Additionally, people with RA may experience a general sense of feeling unwell. Other parts of the body, including the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, and blood vessels, can also be affected.

At what age is rheumatoid arthritis diagnosed?

While everyone’s disease journey is unique, RA most often begins between the ages of 30 and 50.

What is the main cause of rheumatoid arthritis?

While the main cause of RA is unknown, it is thought to develop from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Symptom-wise, inflammation plays a key role in the stiffness and pain RA patients experience.

Where does rheumatoid arthritis usually start?

While your smaller joints (finger and toe joints) tend to be affected first at the onset of the disease, RA symptoms may spread to other parts of the body (lungs, eyes, or even the heart) as the disease progresses.

What are the 4 stages of rheumatoid arthritis?

The four stages of RA are:

Stage 1: Symptoms may be limited to stiffness in the early hours of the morning. However, antibodies in the blood that indicate you have RA (sometimes known as rheumatoid factor) may already be present and detectable at this stage.

Stage 2: Joint swelling typically worsens at this stage. In addition, antibodies can start causing inflammation in the lungs, eyes, and even the heart. Lumps on the elbows called rheumatoid nodules may develop.

Stage 3: Joints can start becoming bent and deformed, fingers can become crooked. These misshapen joints can also cause nerve pain.

Stage 4: If left untreated, RA can progress to where the joint is essentially fused. With proper and timely treatment, however, Stage 4 can be avoided.

What is the difference between rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis?

While both are autoimmune diseases that affect the joints, classic RA primarily involves the middle joints of your fingers and toes, your wrists, and typically affects both sides of the body equally. Psoriatic arthritis, however, typically involves one side of the body. It most often involves the joints closest to your fingernails and toenails and is often accompanied by plaque psoriasis.

Visit the psoriatic arthritis section of our site to learn more.

What is the difference between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis?

Though RA and osteoarthritis may share joint symptoms like pain and stiffness, especially at the onset of disease, the difference is the underlying cause. The inflammation of RA may cause joint pain throughout the body, while osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition from increased wear and tear on the body’s joints. Unlike RA, osteoarthritis destroys joint cartilage over time.

Can rheumatoid arthritis be cured?

While there is currently no cure for RA, early recognition, diagnosis, and maintaining treatment are critical to getting this chronic disease under control as early as possible.

How do people live with rheumatoid arthritis?

Along with maintaining your treatment plan with a biologic medication like CIMZIA, some ways to adjust to living with RA include creating a plan with your rheumatologist that fits your needs. This can include using assistive items (like modified kitchen tools) that can protect your joints and make activities easier to complete, and starting an exercise regime. Talk to your doctor or rheumatologist for any recommendations they may have.

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