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What is rheumatoid arthritis?

According to The Arthritis Foundation, Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) causes joint inflammation and pain. It happens when the immune system doesn’t work properly and attacks the lining of the joints (called the synovium). The disease commonly affects the hands, knees or ankles, and usually the same joint on both sides of the body. But sometimes, RA causes problems in other parts of the body as well, such as the eyes, heart and circulatory system and/or lungs. For unknown reasons, more women than men get RA, and it usually develops in middle age. Having a family member with RA increases the odds of developing RA.

What causes rheumatoid arthritis?

In a healthy person, the immune system fights invaders, such as bacteria and viruses. With an autoimmune disease like RA, the immune system mistakes the body’s cells for foreign invaders and releases inflammatory chemicals that attack, in the case of RA, the synovium. That’s the tissue lining around a joint that produces a fluid to help the joint move smoothly. The inflamed synovium gets thicker and makes the joint area feel painful and tender, look red and swollen and moving the joint may be difficult.

Researchers aren’t sure why some people develop RA. They think that these individuals have certain genes that are activated by a trigger in the environment, like a virus or bacteria, or physical or emotional stress or some other external factor.

How is rheumatoid arthritis diagnosed?

Getting an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible is the first step to treating RA effectively. A doctor with specialized training in treating arthritis (called a rheumatologist) is the best person to make a correct diagnosis, using medical history, a physical examination and lab tests.

Rheumatologist can also diagnosis other diseases such as:
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Giant cell arteritis
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Osteoporosis

How is rheumatoid arthritis treated?

The goals of RA treatment are to:
  • Stop inflammation or reduce it to the lowest possible level (put disease in remission)
  • Relieve symptoms
  • Prevent joint and organ damage
  • Improve function and overall well-being
  • Reduce long-term complications

To meet these goals, the doctor will follow these strategies:
  • Early, aggressive treatment – to reduce or stop inflammation as quickly as possible
  • Targeting remission or another goal (treat-to-target) – work toward little or no signs or symptoms of active inflammation
  • Tight control – keep inflammation at the lowest level possible

How can a specialty pharmacy help?

Kroger Specialty Pharmacy's total life care programs set a clear path to caring, compassionate rheumatology therapy management and support.

We are here to provide patients, providers and partners with the necessary coordination of care vital to achieving successful treatment outcomes. By utilizing our expert patient care team comprised of Doctors of Pharmacy, registered pharmacists and nurses, reimbursement specialists and dedicated Patient Care Coordinators (PCCs), we are able to offer each and every patient and partner with high-quality, personalized care, ongoing patient evaluation and clinical support including frequent patient follow-up and continual education about their rheumatology treatment.

What are some support resources?