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Rheumatoid Arthritis

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Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease in which your immune system mistakenly attacks the lining of your joints, causing pain and swelling. Left untreated, the swelling can damage the cartilage (cushioning between bones) and the bones within the joints, leading to joint instability and deformity. Chronic swelling can cause problems throughout your body, affecting your skin, eyes, blood vessels, lungs, and other organs.

Most often, rheumatoid arthritis affects the joints in your hands, wrists, elbows, knees, and ankles. Initially, it tends to affect the smaller joints on your hands and feet, and it can affect the larger joints — such as your hips and shoulders — as it progresses. 

The most common early symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • Joint pain, swelling or stiffness in more than one joint for six weeks or longer
  • Joint stiffness in the morning or after inactivity
  • Symptoms that affect the same joint on both sides of your body (symmetrical)
  • Fatigue, low-grade fever, and loss of appetite

The symptoms come and go, with periods when symptoms worsen, or flare, for days or months. 

The earlier you get treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, the better — early treatment can slow, or even stop, the progression of the disease. Rheumatologists at University of Miami Health System have the experience to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis quickly so you can begin treatment as soon as possible. With locations throughout South Florida, you can get expert care that’s close to home.

Why Choose UHealth?

The latest treatments for rheumatoid arthritis and other rheumatic diseases. In addition to treating patients, our rheumatologists conduct research to find better approaches for managing the disease. That means you receive care from specialists on the leading edge of arthritis care.

Expert diagnosis and personalized attention. Early, aggressive treatment can put the disease into remission, which means signs of swelling are minimal or stopped. You get a customized treatment plan that's designed to give you the best possible results.

Comprehensive care from a team of specialists. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect different areas of your body, so our rheumatologists work with doctors in a full range of medical specialties to give you comprehensive, coordinated care — such as dermatologists, orthopedic specialists, vascular specialists, pulmonologists (lung diseases), ophthalmologists, and others. 

Specialized care to improve your quality of life. Our rheumatologists work closely with physical therapists, pain management specialists, and other health care professionals to help manage joint pain and fatigue. We educate you about lifestyle changes that can improve symptoms — such as regular exercise and a healthy diet — and offer a wide range of therapies to help you feel better.

Questions? We're here to help.

Our appointment specialists are ready to help you find what you need. Contact us today.

Treatments

  • Immunosuppressive Medicines

    Doctors use a variety of medicines to stop the immune system from attacking healthy tissues, including:

    • Corticosteroids: slow the body's immune response to relieve swelling and pain
    • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs): suppress the immune system broadly to prevent swelling
    • Genetically engineered biologics: a newer type of DMARD that targets specific immune functions

    Some of the medicines can be taken orally, but others are given as an injection. Doctors use ultrasound-guided injections, which allows us to locate the area that’s causing pain and guide the injection of medicine directly to the source.

  • Physical and Occupational Therapies

    A physical therapist can show you exercises and stretches to keep your joints flexible. Your doctor may also send you to an occupational therapist, who can teach you new ways of doing things to protect your joints and recommend assistive devices — such as zipper pulls or buttoning aids for those with sore finger joints — to make everyday activities easier.

  • Surgery

    Although surgery may never be necessary for many people with rheumatoid arthritis, it can offer relief for those who have permanent joint damage that limits daily function. Our orthopedic surgeons are skilled in joint replacement, tendon repair, and other joint-restoring procedures. We use the most advanced, least-invasive techniques to help you move better, without pain.


Tests

  • Blood Tests

    Doctors use a variety of blood tests to help diagnose rheumatoid arthritis, including tests that look for swelling (erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C-reactive protein test) and antibodies (blood proteins) that are associated with the condition (anti-CCP test).

  • Imaging Exams

    Doctors use noninvasive ultrasound (sound waves), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) (magnetic energy and radio waves), and X-ray imaging to check your joints and look for damage, such as the wearing away of bones within the joint.

Accepted Insurances

Note: Health plans that are currently contracted with UHealth are listed below. However, please check with your insurance provider to verify that UHealth is part of your provider network.

  • Aetna WC
  • Aetna Affiliates/Signature Adm (ASA)
  • Aetna Behavioral Health
  • Aetna Elect Choice (EPO)
  • Aetna Florida Healthy Kids
  • Aetna HMO
  • Aetna Medicaid HMO
  • Aetna Medicare HMO
  • Aetna Medicare PPO
  • Aetna POS
  • Aetna PPO
  • Aetna UM Employee HMO 1
  • Aetna UM Employee HMO 2
  • Aetna UM Employee POS HRA
  • Aetna/Coventry Institutes of Excellence (IOE)
  • Amerigroup Florida Healthy Kids
  • Amerigroup Medicaid HMO
  • Argus Vision
  • AvMed Choice
  • AvMed HMO/POS
  • AvMed MDC and JHS Groups
  • AvMed Medicare HMO
  • AXIS
  • BCBS Blue Options Network Blue PPO
  • BCBS BlueCare HealthOptions HMO
  • BCBS BlueChoice PPC/PPO
  • BCBS Miami Dade Blue PPO Limited Benefits Plan
  • BCBS of Florida (All products except "SELECT" Plans)
  • BCBS of Florida (Commercial plans exclude HIX Select)
  • BCBS Traditional PHS/PPO
  • Beacon Health (ValueOption)
  • Beech Street PPO
  • Broward Health Medical Center
  • CarePlus Medicare HMO
  • Catholic Hospice
  • CCP/CMS Title XIX (Medicaid Enrolled in South Florida)
  • CCP/CMS Title XXI (Non Medicaid Enrolled in South Florida)
  • CCP/MMA (Broward County residents)
  • Charlotte County Sheriffs Office PPO
  • Cigna Affiliates
  • Cigna Behavioral Health
  • Cigna Dental HMO/PPO
  • Cigna EPO
  • Cigna HMO
  • Cigna Life Source (Intracorp is part of Cigna Lifesource)
  • Cigna MDCPS Jackson Sr. High
  • Cigna POS
  • Cigna PPO
  • Cigna Shared Administration
  • Clear Health Alliance SNP Medicaid HMO
  • CompCare (Comprehensive Behavioral Care)
  • Concordia Behavioral Health
  • CorVel WC
  • Coventry First Health WC
  • Coventry Health Care of Florida (HIP) HMO/POS
  • Coventry Health Care of Florida (HIP) PPO
  • Coventry Health Plan of Florida (Foundation) HMO
  • Coventry Health Plan of Florida (Foundation) POS
  • Coventry National PPO
  • Coventry Summit Medicare HMO
  • Coventry Vista Medicare HMO
  • Coventry Vista Medicare HMO
  • Delta Dental PPO
  • DentaQuest (ADI)
  • DIKLA
  • Dimension WC
  • Dimension Plus PPO
  • EHN PPO
  • EQUIAN (Health Systems International)
  • Europe Assistance/Global Corporate Solutions (Care Management Network)
  • eyeQuest
  • FCCI WC
  • Florida Healthcare Plan (Affiliate of BCBSFL)
  • Florida PACE (FPC)
  • Freedom Health Medicaid HMO
  • Freedom Health Medicare HMO
  • Gallagher Bassett WC (MDCPS & FCSRMC)
  • Global Excel Mgt PPO
  • Global Health Claims Services
  • Great West (Cigna) HMO/POS
  • Guardian Life PPO
  • HAA Preferred Partners
  • Health First Health HMO/POS
  • Health First Health Medicare HMO
  • Health First Health PPO
  • Health Net Veterans Choice HMO
  • Heritage Summit Healthcare WC
  • Humana Behavioral Health (LifeSynch)
  • Humana Dental/CompBenefits/OHS
  • Humana EPO
  • Humana HMO
  • Humana HUMx
  • Humana Medicaid HMO
  • Humana Medicare HMO
  • Humana National Transplant
  • Humana PPO
  • Humana Premier
  • iCare Health Solutions
  • Interlink Health Services
  • International Kids Fund (IKF)
  • League Medical Concepts Federal Inmates
  • Life Trac
  • Magellan Behavioral Health
  • Magellan Complete Care SNP Medicaid HMO
  • MDAbroad
  • Medica Medicare HMO
  • Medical Development In't (MDI)-Federal Inmates
  • Medicus
  • Metlife Dental PPO
  • MHNet Behavioral Network (MHNet)
  • Molina
  • Molina Market Place
  • Molina Medicaid HMO
  • Molina Medicare HMO
  • Morgan White International
  • MultiPlan PPO
  • Naphcare (Federal Prisoners)
  • National Healthcare Solutions Inc.
  • Neighborhood HealthPlan HMO/POS
  • Neighborhood HealthPlan PPO
  • North Broward Hospital District PPO
  • Olympus Managed Healthcare
  • Optum
  • Positive Healthcare SNP Medicaid HMO
  • Positive Healthcare SNP Medicare HMO
  • Prestige Health Choice Medicaid HMO
  • Prime Health Services WC
  • Quality Health Management
  • Religious Order of Jehovah's Witnesses PPO
  • Rockport Healthcare Group WC
  • Royal Caribbean Cruises PPO
  • Sanus Health Corporation
  • Simply Healthcare Medicaid HMO
  • Solstice Dental HMO/PPO
  • Start Healthcare Network
  • Sunshine
  • Sunshine AMBETTER
  • Sunshine Healthy Kids HMO
  • Sunshine Medicaid HMO
  • Sunshine Medicare HMO
  • Tricare South Prime HMO
  • Tricare South Standard PPO
  • United Behavioral Health (UBH)
  • UnitedHealthcare Affiliates
  • UnitedHealthcare Healthy Kids HMO
  • UnitedHealthcare HMO/POS
  • UnitedHealthcare Medicaid HMO
  • UnitedHealthcare Medicare Nursing Home Plan
  • UnitedHealthcare PPO
  • University of Miami Athletic Dept PPO
  • VUMI
  • Wellcare/Staywell Healthy Kids HMO
  • Wellcare/Staywell Medicaid HMO
  • Wexford Health State Inmates
  • Worldwide Managed Care