Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease affecting more than one million individuals in the United States. This condition mainly affects the hands, knees, and ankles but may affect other body parts including your lungs, eyes, and circulatory system. The symptoms of rheumatoid come and go, but sometimes flare-ups may last for months. Symptoms for this condition include swelling, tenderness, stiffness, and pain in your joints. Most people with rheumatoid arthritis also experience fatigue and fever. Fortunately, the various treatment methods offered at the Osteoporosis and Rheumatology Center of Tampa Bay may help minimize the symptoms of this condition.
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What is the treatment for rheumatoid arthritis?
Unfortunately, there is no established cure for rheumatoid arthritis. The various treatment methods are designed to manage symptoms, for example, minimize pain and swelling in joints.
The different medications prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis depend on the severity of the condition and how long you have had it. These medications fall under classes – first-line drugs and slow-acting second-line drugs. First-line drugs include anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and cortisone, while second-line medicines include hydroxychloroquine, methotrexate, and sulfasalazine, which prevent joint deformity and dysfunction.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Your doctor may recommend anti-inflammatory drugs such as naproxen sodium, Advil, or Motrin IB to help reduce pain and inflammation. Medications such as aspirin may be prescribed in higher doses compared to when used to treat headaches. It is advised to take these drugs with food to prevent gastrointestinal side effects. In some cases, your doctor may recommend antacids to protect your stomach from stomach irritation caused by NSAIDs. Patients respond differently to NSAIDs, and therefore, your doctor may try several of them to identify the one with the fewest side effects.
Corticosteroids have a more substantial effect compared to NSAIDs. Your specialist may administer this medicine through injections, or you may take them orally. Corticosteroids are effective in reducing inflammation and restoring joint function. However, prolonged periods of using corticosteroids may result in serious side effects such as bone thinning, weight gain, cataracts, muscle wasting, and easy bruising. Gradually tapering off these drugs is recommended to avoid symptoms of corticosteroid withdrawal.
Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
This type of medication is essential as it slows down progressive bone damage caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Unlike corticosteroids, these drugs are used for long periods and may take several weeks or months to become effective. DMARDs are available in different forms and may cause varying side effects. For example, Plaquenil is associated with multiple side effects such as muscle weakness, upset stomach, and vision changes. Methotrexate is an example of DMARDs, which has become popular among doctors due to its effectiveness and fewer side effects. Methotrexate can also be prescribed in various doses to meet the particular needs of a patient. However, this is an immunosuppressive drug and can affect your liver and bone marrow.
Besides medical treatment, your doctor may advise you to observe some self-care practices to help manage your condition. For example, you may need to limit foods with gluten to facilitate proper absorption of nutrients in your body. Foods with omega-3 fatty acids may also be beneficial for people with rheumatoid arthritis.
If you live with rheumatoid arthritis and need treatment, book a session today with your doctor.