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Rheumatoid arthritis

Read about living with rheumatoid arthritis. It can be life-changing and you may need long-term treatment to control your symptoms and reduce joint damage.

Self-management

Taking control of rheumatoid arthritis will help you cope with its impact on your lifestyle.

Arthritis Care offers self-management training courses to teach techniques for living positively with arthritis. Techniques include:

  • relaxation and breathing exercises to help pain control
  • goal-setting exercises
  • positive thinking

A self-management programme specifically for people with rheumatoid arthritis has been developed by the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS). The course helps people learn more about their condition and provides practical tips on how to manage everyday life.

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Talk to others

Many people find it helpful to talk to others in a similar position. You may find support from an individual or group of people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Patient organisations have local support groups where you can meet others diagnosed with the same condition.

Call the NRAS helpline free on 0800 298 7650 to speak to a trained rheumatoid arthritis adviser. NRAS also has a team of medical advisers.

You can also call Arthritis Care's free, confidential helpline on 0808 800 4050 (Monday-Friday, 10am-4pm).

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Your feelings

It can be hard to deal with the unpredictable nature of rheumatoid arthritis. Some days, the pain and stiffness will be much worse than others, and there's no way of knowing when a flare-up will occur.

The difficult nature of rheumatoid arthritis can mean some people develop depression or feelings of stress and anxiety. Sometimes, these feelings can be related to poorly controlled pain or fatigue.

Living with any long-term condition makes you more likely to have a range of emotions such as frustration, fear, pain, anger and resentment.

Speak to your healthcare team if you're struggling to deal with your condition emotionally. They may be able to offer medication or psychological interventions to help.

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Starting and raising a family

If you're taking medicines for rheumatoid arthritis, let your healthcare team know if you want to start a family or if you're worried about becoming pregnant while on medication.

Some medications, such as methotrexate, leflunomide and biological treatments, shouldn't be taken by men or women while they're trying for a baby. The doctors and nurses will work with you to ensure your rheumatoid arthritis is controlled while you're trying to get pregnant.

Babies and young children are physically and mentally demanding for any parent, but particularly so if you have rheumatoid arthritis. If you're struggling to cope, it may help to talk to other people in the same situation as you.

You may also be able to get additional support from your health visitor or occupational therapist to help you manage your young family.

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Sex and relationships

Pain, discomfort and changes in the way you feel can affect your sex life. Your self-esteem or thoughts about how you look may affect your confidence.

Although many people find it difficult to talk about such private issues, there are resources that might help you.

Talking to your partner or GP about the impact of rheumatoid arthritis on your sexuality and sexual relationships may help.

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Money and benefits

If you have to stop work or work part time because of your rheumatoid arthritis, you may find it hard to cope financially.

You may be entitled to one or more of the following types of financial support:

You may also be eligible for other benefits if you have children living at home or if you have a low household income.

Paying for your medications

If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you're likely to need repeat prescriptions of medication to keep your condition under control.

Rheumatoid arthritis isn't listed as a medical condition that entitles a person to free prescriptions in England, although you may be able to get your medication for free if your condition falls under the category of "a continuing physical disability which means the person can't go out without the help of another person".

You're also entitled to free prescriptions if you're 60 or over, or if you receive either: 

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance.

If you aren't entitled to free prescriptions, you may find it cheaper to buy a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC). This is effectively a prescription "season ticket" that covers all your prescriptions over a three or 12 month period.

Read more about help with prescription costs to see if you're entitled to free prescriptions.

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