Hi. And welcome to healingwell. In answer to your initial question, yes, early treatment of RA can alter the course of the disease. I also have relatively mild to moderate disease (not that it doesn't hurt :)) and I was able to get treatment right away. Others may not have been so fortunate. I believe mtx, with the folic acid, can be enough for many people. Others do end up adding one of the biologics. I actually started with the biologics and added mtx. I was concerned about taking mtx because I was unsure if I was finished having children and wasn't going to take mtx at all. It is an issue for younger women (and men) who have fertility concerns. Enbrel, the biologic I was on, did a reasonably good job but didn't quite handle the entire thing. When I added the mtx, it was like magic and I felt normal for the first time in a couple of years. Unfortunately, I've had to stop taking enbrel as I'm being treated for a rather serious infection and I'm experiencing the rebound arthritis. But at least I know that, for me, combining the mtx with one of the biologics works well.
some people's insurance may not cover the biologics; however, many of the pharmaceutical companies offer programs that provide free drugs to qualified patients. I think the biologics are great drugs, but certainly not without their risks.
Good for you for getting in to see a rheumatologist early. One thing I've noticed is that over time (last four years), my symptoms have gradually worsenend. The DMARDs make a huge difference in my pain, but they are all just bandaids, as evidenced by my current rebound arthritis with enbrel. I don't know if the progression of my disease will continue or not; a question for my rheumatologist. I know it has not gone into remission.
Current dx: Rheumatoid Arthritis
Suspected dx: UCTD/Early Lupus
Current Meds: Enbrel, Plaquenil, Aciphex, Ultracet, Zyrtec, Allavert-D, Zantac, Tylenol PM
Past Meds: Relafen, Vioxx, Mobic, Voltaren, Sulfasalazine, Entocort, Prednisone, Humira, Reglan