Living with RA

You have good days and bad days when you’re living with Rheumatoid Arthritis - RA. It’s just that you never know which day you’re going to wake up to. There’s no telling when the next bout of swollen, hot, painful, stiff joints will come.

But there's hope. No matter what stage you are at with managing your RA, continue to talk with your doctor about treatment options and lifestyle changes that are right for you.

is the key to managing RA

Talking to your doctor on a regular basis is really important. You need to have an open and honest conversation about your symptoms, pain management, mobility and energy levels. Together you can work out a plan that’s right for you.

To help discuss treatment options, simply complete the below questionnaire and take your results with you to your next appointment. Don’t forget, regular appointments with your doctor are key to managing your RA effectively.

Your RA Treatment Options

non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

tablet, gel, cream or spray

NSAIDs reduce inflammation, joint swelling and stiffness. They are very common and you can buy ones like ibuprofen over the counter. They don’t protect you from the long-term damage RA can cause, and they can also give you stomach problems if taken for a long time.

 b-cell inhibitors 


These medicines help control RA by destroying another category of immune system cells called B cells.

Approved for use in Australia in 1998.

 jak inhibitors 


This class of treatment works by blocking a cellular signaling pathway (Janus-associated kinase or JAK) inside cells. This stops components that cause inflammation from being made. Whilst all other biologic DMARDS block inflammation from outside of the cell, JAK-inhibitors work from within the cells.

Approved for use in Australia in 2015.


Tablet, injection or infusion

Synthetic medicines that closely resemble cortisol, a hormone your body produces naturally. They work by decreasing inflammation and reducing the activity of the immune system. They’re usually not used long-term because of the side effects (like weight gain or making your bones and muscles weak). If you do have them over longer periods it would usually be at a much lower dose.


Self-injection or infusion

This type of biologic DMARD blocks the action of an immune system protein called interleukin-1 (IL-1). This protein plays a major role in controlling local and systemic inflammation in the body.

Approved for use in Australia in 2003.


Self-injection or infusion

T-cells, or T lymphocytes, play a key role in the immune response involved in RA. In RA overproduction of T-cells leads to chronic inflammation, pain and disease progression. T-cell inhibitor drugs not only reduce T-cell production, but can also play a role in inhibiting TNF activity.

Approved for use in Australia in 2007

Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs)

Tablet, injection or infusion

Used to treat inflammation in RA, they act on the immune system to cause ‘immunosuppression’. This reduces the activity of the immune system which is attacking and damaging healthy joints, to provide pain relief, reduce swelling and stop your RA from getting worse. There are also genetically engineered versions of DMARDs known as ‘biological DMARDs’. You will usually have to try non-biologic DMARDs first, but if they haven’t worked or give you side effects, these are the next step.


Self-injection or infusion

Interleukin 6 (IL-6) plays an important role in immune response and inflammatory reactions and is associated with abnormally high IL-6 levels in RA. IL-6 inhibitors bring down the levels of this pro-inflammatory protein.

Approved for use in Australia in 2009.


Self-injection or infusion

These medicines work by interfering with the activity of tumor necrosis factor (TNF). TNF proteins play an important role in controlling immune responses. But in RA they produce abnormal amounts that drive joint inflammation and destruction.

Approved for use in Australia in 2000.

Next Steps


A simple tool to assist your next discussion with your doctor about your RA

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Ra xplained

A free app that explains rheumatoid arthritis through storytelling

find out more

Appointment Reminder

Get the most from your next appointment with this checklist

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Where to find support

If you are living with Rheumatoid Arthritis, know someone with Rheumatoid Arthritis or are caring for someone with Rheumatoid Arthritis, the below information may be useful.

Arthritis Helpline

1800 011 041

Social network for those living with RA

Arthritis Australia

Phone: (02) 9518 4441

Fax: (02) 9518 4011



Freecall: 1800 111 101



National Helpline: 1800 263 265

Dragon Claw

Information & Support:

Creaky Joints Australia


Find a Support Group:

State and Territory Support

Arthritis Australian Capital Territory

Phone: (02) 6288 4244

Fax: (02) 6288 4277



Infoline: 1800 011 041

Arthritis New South Wales

Phone: (02) 9857 3300

Fax: (02) 9857 3399



Infoline: 1800 011 041

Arthritis South Australia

Phone: (08) 8379 5711

Fax: (08) 8379 5707



Infoline: 1800 011 041

Arthritis Northern Territory

Phone: (08) 8948 5232

Fax: (08) 8948 5234



Infoline: 1800 011 041

Arthritis Queensland

Phone: (07) 3857 4200

Fax: (07) 3857 4099



Infoline: 1800 011 041

Arthritis Tasmania

Phone: (03) 6228 4824

Fax: (03) 6228 3486



Infoline: 1800 011 041

Arthritis Western Australia

Phone: (08) 9388 2199

Fax: (08) 9388 4488



Infoline: 1800 011 041

Additional resources in Australia

Help with day to day living and access to devices that could make life easier contact Independent Living Centres

1300 885 886

Access quality online information about rheumatoid arthritis Health Direct

Advice on healthy eating and appropriate exercise Healthy Active

Find a rheumatologist Australian Rheumatology Association

Ph: (02) 9252 2334

Find a physiotherapist Australian Physiotherapy Association

Ph: 1300 306 622

Find an occupational therapist, contact Occupational Therapy Australia

Ph: 1300 682 878

Find a podiatrist Australasian Podiatry Council

Ph: (03) 9416 3111

Find an exercise physiologist Exercise and Sports Science Australia

Ph: (07) 3862 4122

Find a dietitian Dietitians Association of Australia

Ph: 1800 812 942

Find a psychologist Australian Psychological Society

Ph: 1800 333 497

Carer Support

Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centres provide free and confidential information on local carer support, disability and community services.

To find one nearest you call 1800 052 222.

Carers Australia