5 Things You Didn’t (And Should!) Know About Living with Moderate to Severe Rheumatoid Arthritis

(BPT) – Many people don’t realize the impact moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can have on a person’s life. Find out from Gretchen what it’s like to live with the condition and things you should know.

1. There’s More to RA than the Hands
Moderate to severe RA isn’t characterized by just one symptom such as swelling of the joints, but a variety of symptoms that appear differently in each person. “When I first started feeling symptoms, I was surprised because I thought RA was only in the hands,” said Gretchen. “I enjoy gardening. But, I wasn’t just struggling holding my gardening tools; I was struggling to even kneel down to pick a few vegetables. I’ve since learned RA is most common in the hands, but also affects other joints.” RA comes in many forms, ranging from mild to more severe and can affect the neck, elbows, hips, knees, and feet.

2. Age Doesn’t Matter
Though it is more common in women, RA can affect adults at any age. “I didn’t see my doctor right away because I never suspected it could be RA. I was only 27, and I thought RA affected elderly women, not people like me. Turns out I was wrong. I encourage anyone who thinks they have symptoms to see a rheumatologist right away.”

3. Stiffness is Often the Worst in the Morning
Joint stiffness associated with moderate to severe RA is often at its worst first thing in the morning. It can last for a few hours or the entire day. “I work a full-time job and also care for my three kids, so I thought my stiffness was just due to long days on my feet. But when it was happening every morning, I knew it was time to see my doctor,” said Gretchen. Joint stiffness for a long time in the morning can be a clue that you may have RA, since few other arthritic diseases present the same way.

4. Low-Impact Exercise Can Help
When you’re in pain, the last thing you want to do is move around. But, movement is actually one of the best ways to manage your pain from moderate to severe RA. Low-impact aerobic exercises and exercises that boost muscle strength are best not only for reducing pressure on joints, but also overall health. “I love to go on walks because it’s a great workout without putting a lot of stress on my joints,” said Gretchen. “Walking is something I can enjoy with my husband and sons that helps me relax. I also try to stretch; it keeps my joints flexible.” Patients should follow up with their healthcare providers to understand what may work best for them.  

5. Appropriate Treatment is Key
“For my patients, early diagnosis and appropriate treatment are important for managing their moderate to severe RA.” said Alan Epstein, M.D., Pennsylvania Rheumatology Associates, PC. “There are a number of available treatment options, including a biologic therapy called ORENCIA, which are approved to help relieve symptoms and slow the progression of further joint damage in moderate to severe RA. If you experience RA symptoms like pain, stiffness, and swelling in your joints, I encourage you to work with your doctor right away to identify the most appropriate therapy for you.”

ORENCIA® (abatacept) is a prescription medicine that reduces signs and symptoms in adults with moderate to severe RA, including those who have not been helped enough by other medicines for RA. ORENCIA may prevent further damage to your bones and joints and may help your ability to perform daily activities. In adults, ORENCIA may be used alone or with other RA treatments other than tumor necrosis factor (TNF) antagonists. ORENCIA can cause serious side effects including serious infections. ORENCIA can make you more likely to get infections or make the infection that you have get worse. Some patients have died from these infections. Call your healthcare provider immediately if you feel sick or get any of the following signs of infection: fever; feel very tired; cough; feel flu-like; or warm, red or painful skin.

Please read about additional Important Safety Information

There is more to rheumatoid arthritis besides stiff joints, and no one treatment works for everyone with moderate to severe RA. If you feel you experience any symptoms that are associated with RA, speak to a rheumatologist right away regarding appropriate treatment options.

For more information, visit www.orencia.com/tips

Important Safety Information
Inform your healthcare provider of the following, before you receive treatment with
ORENCIA® (abatacept):

Infections: If you have any kind of infection even if it is small (such as an open cut or sore), an infection that is in your whole body (such as the flu), an infection that will not go away, or a history of infections that keep coming back. ORENCIA may make your immune system less able to fight infections, so you may be more likely to get infections or any infection you have may get worse.

Tuberculosis: If you have had tuberculosis (TB), a positive skin test for TB, or if you recently have been in close contact with someone who has had TB. If you get any of the symptoms of TB (a cough that does not go away, weight loss, fever, night sweats), call your healthcare provider right away.

Before you start ORENCIA, your healthcare provider may examine you for TB or perform a skin test. If you have or have had Viral Hepatitis. Before you use ORENCIA, your healthcare provider may examine you for hepatitis.

If you have a history of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary (lung) Disease (COPD).

If you are scheduled to have Surgery.

Allergies to the Ingredients of ORENCIA: The ingredients of intravenous (IV) ORENCIA are: abatacept, maltose, monobasic sodium phosphate, and sodium chloride for administration. The ingredients of subcutaneous (SC) ORENCIA are: abatacept, sucrose, poloxamer 188, monobasic sodium phosphate monohydrate, dibasic sodium phosphate anhydrous, and water for injection.

Vaccinations: If you have recently received a vaccination or are scheduled for any vaccination. If you are receiving ORENCIA, and for 3 months after you stop receiving ORENCIA, you should not take live vaccines.

Diabetes: If you have diabetes and use a blood glucose monitor to check your sugar levels. The infusion of ORENCIA contains maltose, a sugar that can give falsely high blood glucose readings with some monitors on the day you receive your infusion. Your healthcare provider may tell you to use a different way to monitor your blood sugar levels. ORENCIA for SC injection does not contain maltose; therefore, you do not need to change the way you monitor your blood sugar if you are taking ORENCIA subcutaneously.

Pregnancy: If you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or are thinking about becoming pregnant. It is not known if ORENCIA can harm your unborn baby.

Breastfeeding: You will need to decide to either breastfeed or receive treatment with ORENCIA, but not both.

If you Take Any Other Kinds of Medicine, including prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

If you are Taking Other Biologic Medicines to Treat RA such as: Enbrel® (etanercept), Humira® (adalimumab), Remicade® (infliximab), Kineret® (anakinra), Rituxan® (rituximab), Simponi® (golimumab), Cimzia® (certolizumab pegol), or Actemra® (tocilizumab). You may have a higher chance of getting a serious infection if you take ORENCIA with other biologic medicines.

Possible Side Effects of ORENCIA® (abatacept)

ORENCIA can cause serious side effects including:

Serious infections. ORENCIA can make you more likely to get infections or make the infection that you have get worse. Some patients have died from these infections. Call your healthcare provider immediately if you feel sick or get any of the following signs of infection: fever; feel very tired; cough; feel flu-like; or warm, red or painful skin.

Allergic reactions. Allergic reactions can happen to people who use ORENCIA. Call your healthcare provider or get emergency medical help right away if you have any symptoms of an allergic reaction, which may include hives; swollen face, eyelids, lips, tongue; or trouble breathing.

Hepatitis B infection. If you are a carrier of the hepatitis B virus (a virus that affects the liver), the virus can become active while you use ORENCIA. Your healthcare provider may do a blood test before you start or while using ORENCIA.

Vaccinations. You should not receive ORENCIA with certain types of vaccines. ORENCIA may cause some vaccinations to be less effective.

Respiratory problems in patients with COPD. You may get certain respiratory problems more often if you receive ORENCIA and have COPD, including: worsened COPD, cough, or trouble breathing.

Cancer (malignancies). Certain kinds of cancer have been reported in patients receiving ORENCIA. It is not known if ORENCIA increases your chance of getting certain kinds of cancer.

Common side effects with ORENCIA are headache, upper respiratory tract infection, sore throat, and nausea.

Note concerning ORENCIA SC: It is not known if ORENCIA for SC injection is safe and effective in children under 18 years of age.

Please read the Patient Information in the Full Prescribing Information, http://packageinserts.bms.com/pi/pi_orencia.pdf.

Brought to you by Bristol-Myers Squibb Company.
© 2015 Bristol-Myers Squibb Company.
ORENCIA is a registered trademark of Bristol-Myers Squibb Company.


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