Treatments Available for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Unfortunately, there is still no cure for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), but there are a wide variety of treatments available for people with this chronic autoimmune disease. These treatments can help control some of the inflammation, pain, and other symptoms that are associated with rheumatoid arthritis. In addition to a variety of RA medications, rheumatologists may recommend a mixture of weight loss plans, medical surgeries, physical and occupational therapies, and even some relaxation techniques to help relieve joint pain. Your rheumatologist can help you develop a course of treatment that will work for your condition. If you have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, you may want to have a look at the full list of rheumatoid arthritis clinical trials available on Clinical Trials GPS.
Common Treatments Available for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS): These drugs are used to reduce pain and inflammation in the joints. The more mild forms of NSAIDs include things like naproxen (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin), but patients can get stronger forms with a prescription. Patients should remember that these drugs will not prevent joint damage, nor will they slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis. Reported side effects from NSAIDs include ulcers, gastrointestinal irritation, liver damage, edema, burning and bleeding, ringing in the ears, kidney damage, elevated blood pressure, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Corticosteroids: These drugs are used to reduce chronic pain and inflammation, as well as to prevent potential joint damage. Common forms of corticosteroids include Medrol, prednisone, and methylprednisolone. Patients can choose to take them orally, or they can be injected directly into the inflamed joint (either intravenously or intramuscularly). However, corticosteroids should not be taking for a long period of time, as they can cause some adverse side effects. Patients have reported experiencing some increased blood sugar levels, weight gain, hypertension, cataracts, thinning of the bones (osteoporosis), redness in the cheeks, and even diabetes after taking corticosteroids.
Immunosuppressants: These will help to control the patient’s immune system by working to suppress the response which has been causing the inflammation and pain. Common forms of immunosuppressants include azathioprine (Azasan and Imuran), cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), and cyclosporine (Neoral, Gengraf and Sandimmune). Some patients have experienced side effects when taking immunosuppressants, including increased risk of infection, itching, sore throat, headaches, runny nose, and acute abdominal pain.
Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs): These drugs are used to slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis, and they can help to limit the damage that this disease can inflict on the joints. Common forms of DMARDs include methotrexate (Trexall), minocycline (Dynacin and Minocin), hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil), etanercept (Enbrel), tocilizumab (Actemra), certolizumab pegol (Cimzia), infliximab (Remicade), abatacept (Orencia), anakinra (Kineret), adalimumab (Humira), sulfasalazine (Azulfidine), and rituximab (Rituxan). Don’t be surprised if it takes a few weeks for the effects of the treatment to be noticed. Reported side effects of DMARDs include liver damage, lung infections, and inhibition of bone marrow.
Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF)-alpha inhibitors: This form of RA treatment is used to reduce chronic pain, morning stiffness, joint tenderness, and the inflammation that is characteristic of this autoimmune disease. Common forms of TNF-alpha inhibitors include etanercept (Enbrel), golimumab (Simponi), adalimumab (Humira), and certolizumab (Cimzia). Some patients have experienced adverse effects while taking TNF-alpha inhibitors including lethal bodily infections, heart failure, and an increased risk of developing specific forms of cancer.
Analgesic Drugs (Chronic Narcotic Therapies): This form of treatment can be administered to patients who are suffering from severe pain and joint damage, but who are not viable candidates for surgery. These drugs are not to be used as an anti-inflammatory treatment, nor will they work to slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis. As one might guess, these treatments are not applied that often. Side effects of analgesic drugs include addiction, constipation, and impaired mental status.
Pain Management: Effective pain management and stress relief can be used effectively when coping with painful joints and other RA symptoms. Clinical studies on rheumatoid arthritis have shown that stress can often contribute to autoimmune disease. However, effective stress management techniques can be used to reduce the levels of pain a patient is experiencing. Certain breathing exercises and even hypnosis can also help reduce pain levels associated with this inflammatory disease.
Weight Management: New research has suggested that there could be a link between obesity and rheumatoid arthritis. Some RA patients may need to shed some of that extra weight to reduce their symptoms, but this can be achieved through proper diet, exercise, and surgery. Maintaining a healthier weight will reduce the level of stress placed on affected joints, and is necessary for effective disease management.
Surgery: in some cases, surgery can be performed in order to replace severely damaged joints, repair tendons, insert a prosthesis, or perform a joint fusion. You will need to discuss your options with your doctor.
While rheumatoid arthritis can be debilitating and painful, it can be effectively managed with the right treatments. Talk to your doctor and rheumatologist about forming an appropriate course of treatment for your specific case of RA. With their guidance, you can take control of your autoimmune disease and enjoy a better quality of life.