medical IDs for rheumatoid arthritis

Medical IDs for Rheumatoid Arthritis

The confidence to live with rheumatoid arthritis

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts that by 2040, nearly 75 million U.S. adults will be living with some form of arthritis. Today, an estimated 58.5 million adults are living with the disease, with more than 1.3 million people living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Because this autoimmune disorder occurs in both sides of the body, RA is different from other types of arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis can cause a host of head-to-toe symptoms, which also makes it one of the most serious forms of arthritis.

This is one of the many reasons why people living with RA should wear a MedicAlert medical ID. 

How MedicAlert protects those living with rheumatoid arthritis

One thing you shouldn’t worry about is what could happen in a health emergency. MedicAlert’s protection plans offer benefits that extend beyond the ID, providing safety and peace of mind for people living with rheumatoid arthritis, their families and caregivers.

24/7 Emergency Response

Our team provides first responders the information they need to provide fast, accurate care.

Digital Health Profile

All your vital information, all in one place for you and your caregiver.

Emergency Contact Notification

In an emergency, we connect families so that no one is alone in a crisis.

Patient Instructions

Share the information that’s important to your care, such as use of rescue medications or contraindication for tests like MRIs.

Pair a medical ID for rheumatoid arthritis with the protection plan that’s right for you.

What exactly is rheumatoid arthritis?

Arthritis, which means inflammation or swelling of the joints and tissues, isn’t a single disease but rather a term that describes more than 100 conditions that affect the joints and tissues. Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most common types of arthritis. While all types of arthritis affect the joints and tissues, RA is different in that it impacts other body systems such as the lungs, blood vessels, heart, skin, mouth, and eyes. In other types of arthritis, just one side of the body may be affected. In people living with rheumatoid arthritis, both sides of the body are impacted, making RA one of the most serious types of arthritis. 

What causes rheumatoid arthritis?

A normal immune system produces antibodies that attack foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses, helping to fight infection. In a person living with rheumatoid arthritis, the immune response is different. The body’s immune system can’t tell the difference between healthy cells and foreign invaders, causing it to attack its own healthy cells. The specific causes of this malfunction are unknown, but research suggest that certain factors can increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

According to the CDC, the most common risk factors for developing RA include:

  • Age: the average onset of RA is highest among people in their sixties
  • Gender: new cases of RA are two-to-three times higher in women than men
  • Genetics or inherited traits: people born with human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class II genotypes, are more likely to develop RA. Risk may be highest when people with HLA genes are exposed to environmental factors such as smoking or when they are obese.
  • Obesity (in general): studies suggest that the more overweight a person is, the higher his or her risk of developing RA becomes
  • Smoking: multiple studies show that smoking increases a person’s risk of developing RA. This habit can also make the disease worse. One study found that children of smokers, particularly women, have double the risk of developing RA.

Other studies suggest that children from lower income households are at an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis as adults, and women who have never given birth may be at a greater risk of developing the disease. On the other hand, the CDC states that at least one characteristic may decrease the risk of developing RA. Women who have breastfed their infants have a decreased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

Help others help you. Wear a medical alert ID bracelet or necklace engraved with important information for emergency responders and healthcare providers.

What are the symptoms and complications of rheumatoid arthritis?

According to the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center, in general, rheumatoid arthritis begins in a gradual and subtle way, with signs and symptoms developing over weeks to months. However, in some cases, symptoms can develop over years. Symptoms of RA can vary from mild to severe, with periods of remission and flares. Although rheumatoid arthritis affects people differently, the most common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue (extreme tiredness)
  • Fever
  • Joint stiffness, especially in the morning or after long periods of inactivity
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain and stiffness in the same joints on both sides of the body, such as in both hands or both knees
  • Pain, swelling, stiffness, and tenderness in more than one joint
  • Tender, warm, swollen joints
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss

For many people living with rheumatoid arthritis, fatigue is one of the worst symptoms of the disease. Fatigue makes it more difficult to manage the pain and discomfort associated with RA. This can lead to the inability to complete tasks at home and at work. The CDC states that adults with rheumatoid arthritis are less likely to be employed than those who do not have the disease.

Other complications of rheumatoid arthritis include an increased risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome, diabetes, dry eyes and mouth, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, infections, lung disease, lymphoma, osteoporosis, and premature heart disease.

How do you diagnose rheumatoid arthritis?

To help ensure the most accurate diagnosis and an appropriate treatment plan, your doctor or healthcare provider may refer you to a rheumatologist. A rheumatologist is a physician that specializes in arthritis. When diagnosing RA, your rheumatologist will conduct a physical examination and assess your medical history and symptoms. Because there is no single test for rheumatoid arthritis, your rheumatologist may order a number of blood and imaging tests. 

Blood tests look for blood proteins (antibodies) and inflammation that could be a sign of rheumatoid arthritis. Imaging tests can detect changes such as wear on the ends of the bones within the joints. 

Blood tests for rheumatoid arthritis may include:

  • Antibodies to citrullinated peptides (anti-cyclic-citrullinated peptide [anti-CCP] antibodies)
  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP)
  • C-reactive protein (CRP)
  • Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR)
  • Rheumatoid Factor (RF)

Imaging tests for rheumatoid arthritis may include:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans
  • Ultrasounds
  • X-rays

After completing a number of tests, in some cases, your rheumatologist may decide to take a “watch and wait” approach before making a final diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. 

What to engrave on MedicAlert medical IDs for rheumatoid arthritis:

MedicAlert offers free custom engraving on all our rheumatoid arthritis bracelets and other medical ID products. The engraving on medical IDs for rheumatoid arthritis should include any critical medical information that can protect and save lives in case of an accident or a medical emergency, for example:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Other medical conditions
  • Medications you’re taking
  • Allergies
  • Any other critical medical information that needs to be communicated to first responders
medical IDs for rheumatoid arthritis

Sample engraving. Consult our team if you need help engraving your medical ID for rheumatoid arthritis.

How do you treat, manage, and live with rheumatoid arthritis?

There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. However, the condition can be managed effectively with medication (drugs), lifestyle changes, supportive treatment, and/or surgery. The goal of treatment for RA is to alleviate joint pain and inflammation. The long-term goal of treatment is to slow or stop joint damage.

While treatment will vary by individual, drug therapy is often the first-line treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. The different types of drugs that may be used to treat RA include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), and biologics.

NSAIDs decrease pain and inflammation. Common NSAIDs include:

  • Aspirin (Bayer, Ecotrin)
  • COX-2 inhibitors such as celecoxib (Celebrex)
  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
  • Naproxen (Aleve)

Corticosteroids, also known as steroids, can help alleviate inflammation and pain. Common corticosteroids include:

  • Cortisone
  • Prednisone

DMARDs can slow disease progress and may be used alone or in combination with steroids or other drugs. Common DMARDs include:

  • Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil)
  • Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors such as tofacitinib (Xeljanz) and baracitinib (Olumiant)
  • Leflunomide (Arava)
  • Methotrexate (Trexall)
  • Sulfasalazine (Azulfidine)

Biologics are used when an individual doesn’t respond well to DMARDs. According to Cleveland Clinic, biologics target the molecules that cause inflammation in the joints. Providers think biologics are more effective because they attack the cells at a more specific level. Biologic products for RA include:

  • Abatacept (Orencia)
  • Adalimumab (Humira)
  • Anakinra (Kinaret)
  • Certolizumab (Cimzia)
  • Etanercept (Enbrel)
  • Golimumab (Simponi)
  • Infliximab (Remicade)
  • Rituximab (Rituxan)
  • Tocilizumab (Actemra)

Along with drug treatment, rheumatoid arthritis can be managed with lifestyle changes. This includes weight loss, adopting a low-salt, low-fat diet, and minimizing processed carbohydrates. When rheumatoid arthritis is severe and if it does not respond to treatment, your rheumatologist might recommend surgery. Examples include hip replacement, knee replacement, and other surgeries to correct any type of deformity.

How medical IDs for rheumatoid arthritis combined with MedicAlert Membership provide peace of mind

Rheumatoid arthritis can affect movement in the hands, legs, arms, and many other areas of the body, causing discomfort and pain. RA flares can be very unpredictable and medications for the condition can interact with other drugs, substances, and even certain foods. Finally, signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are often mistaken for other conditions. For these reasons and many others, it is important for people living with RA to wear a MedicAlert medical ID. 

A MedicAlert medical ID can be your voice if you are in an accident or have another medical emergency that makes it difficult to communicate with first responders, ER doctors, and hospital staff. A MedicAlert medical ID lets emergency responders know that you are living with rheumatoid arthritis, so certain steps can be taken to ensure fast and accurate treatment. Add a MedicAlert protection plan to your MedicAlert medical ID and you’ll have an added layer of protection in emergencies and other medical-related situations. 

MedicAlert’s protection doesn’t just stop at a high-quality medical ID. With membership in a Protection Plan, you’ll have access to an extra layer of protection with benefits such as:

  • A robust digital health profile containing your medical history, medications, allergies, vaccinations, and more
  • 24/7 Emergency Response Team to relay vital information to first responders
  • Emergency contact notification so your loved ones can be by your side quickly
  • A printable patient profile that you can use for medical appointments
  • Patient instructions that share information important to your care
  • Document storage for medical device info and more
  • Sharing of your advance directives, such as DNR status
DISCLAIMER: THIS WEBSITE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. The information in this article is presented for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified healthcare provider for any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.