Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment: A Comprehensive Guide
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the joints. If left untreated, it can cause long-term damage to the joints and reduced mobility. Thankfully, there are several effective treatment options available today that can help manage the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and slow the progression of joint damage. This article provides a comprehensive overview of the various rheumatoid arthritis treatment options.
Drug Therapies for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Drug therapies remain the first line of treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. The goal of drug therapies is to reduce inflammation, relieve joint pain and swelling, and prevent further joint damage. Some of the commonly prescribed drug therapies include:
Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen are over-the-counter medications that help reduce joint inflammation and pain. However, long term use of NSAIDs may increase risk of gastrointestinal problems.
Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs): DMARDs work to slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis by modifying the disease process. Methotrexate is one of the most commonly prescribed DMARDs. Other DMARDs include hydroxychloroquine, leflunomide, and sulfasalazine.
Biologic Response Modifiers: Biologics directly target specific proteins involved in the inflammatory process. Some common biologics used to treat rheumatoid arthritis are adalimumab, etanercept, infliximab, abatacept, rituximab, and tocilizumab. Biologics are highly effective but also expensive.
Corticosteroids: Steroid medications like prednisone provide potent anti-inflammatory effects. Short term use of low dose oral corticosteroids can provide relief from rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. However, long term use may cause side effects. Corticosteroid injections into the joints may also help control symptoms.
JAK Inhibitors: Recently approved JAK inhibitors like tofacitinib work by interfering with the JAK-STAT signaling pathway involved in rheumatoid arthritis. They provide an alternative treatment option.
Complementary and Alternative Treatments
In addition to conventional drug therapies, many patients also rely on complementary and alternative treatments to help manage their rheumatoid arthritis symptoms:
Physical Therapy: Strengthening and range of motion exercises prescribed by a physical therapist can help improve joint mobility and reduce pain. Aquatic therapy in warm water pools is also beneficial.
Occupational Therapy: An occupational therapist can recommend adjustments to daily activities and suggest tools or assistive devices to minimize joint strain or improve grip.
Braces and Splints: Wrist splints or knee braces can be worn to restrict painful or inflamed joints from moving, thus providing relief.
Heat/Cold Therapy: Applying heat with a hot water bottle or cold with an ice pack to affected joints can temporarily relieve rheumatoid arthritis pain and swelling.
Assistive Devices: Canes, walkers or orthopedic shoes may help distribute weight and minimize stress on painful joints.
Joint Surgery and Procedures
For patients with advanced joint damage not responding to medications, joint surgery may be recommended. Common joint surgeries for rheumatoid arthritis include:
Joint Replacement Surgery: Damaged wrist, knee, hip or shoulder joints may need to be replaced surgically with prosthetic implants. This provides pain relief and improves mobility.
Joint Fusion Surgery: Sometimes multiple small, deformed hand or foot joints are fused together surgically to improve function.
Carpal Tunnel Release: This surgery involves cutting the transverse carpal ligament to relieve pressure and pain from carpal tunnel syndrome, a common rheumatoid arthritis complication.
Synovectomy: In this minimally invasive arthroscopic procedure, the synovial membrane lining inflamed joints is surgically removed to reduce inflammation and prevent further joint damage.
Lifestyle Management Tips
Along with medications and therapies, adopting a health-promoting lifestyle can also help manage rheumatoid arthritis symptoms:
– Maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise to avoid extra stress on weight-bearing joints.
– Get adequate rest and prioritize stress reduction techniques like yoga, tai chi, relaxation breathing.
– Avoid repetitive activities or jobs requiring strenuous use of wrists, fingers, knees or hips.
– Use joint protection techniques like cutting larger tasks into smaller pieces and asking for help when needed.
– Wear well-fitting, comfortable shoes with padded heels and arch supports.
– Drink plenty of water and limit alcohol intake which can worsen joint inflammation.
– Quit smoking which exacerbates rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
With the many treatment advancements today, patients can now better manage their rheumatoid arthritis and continue to live an active lifestyle. An individualized treatment plan guided by a rheumatologist offers the best results for long term control of symptoms and prevention of joint disability.
- Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
- We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it