Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment Options

Rheumatoid Arthritis
on February 29, 2012

Rheumatoid arthritis (or RA) is a chronic health condition, which, according to the Mayo Clinic, cannot be cured. Treatments are therefore focused on easing, rather than curing, the illness. RA can exhibit a number of different painful symptoms, most commonly in the joints, but also possibly in other areas of the body.

If you suffer from this painful condition, a number of different treatments are open to you. Familiarize yourself with the treatments that are available to you and help manage this long-term illness.

Medication. According to the National Library of Medicine, disease-modifying anti rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are normally the first drugs tried in patients suffering from RA. Methotrexate is most commonly prescribed, but leflumonide and sulfasalazine can also be used. DMARDs tend to have serious side effects and require frequent blood tests. Anti-inflammatory medications can also be used, often without a prescription, but although effective, can cause longer-term stomach problems.

Biologic agents. Biologic drugs can be very effective in treating RA, as they are designed to combat the immune system’s role in causing the disease. These drugs can be administered under the skin or into a vein and there are a number of different types. Biologic agents can be very effective, but treatment must be carefully monitored due to the risk of serious side effects.

Surgery. Surgical procedures may sometimes be required, particularly where there is a need to correct severely damaged joints. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are different types of surgical treatment. Tendon repair can correct damage to the tendons around your joint. Joint fusion can stabilize or realign a damaged joint. In some cases, total joint replacement may be necessary; this involves removing the damaged parts and inserting a metal or plastic prosthesis.

Physical therapy. Exercises identified by a physical therapist can help keep your muscles strong and will prevent long-term damage to joints. Therapists may also opt to use specialized machines to apply deep heat treatment, which reduces pain and eases joint movement. It is also important to take the appropriate rest periods between bouts of exercise, as well as get plenty of regular sleep.