Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment
Rheumatoid arthritis treatment is primarily aimed at symptom relief, as there is no cure for this disease. The medicines reduce pain and inflammation in the joints and slow down further progress of the disease. Physical and occupational therapy teaches you to protect the joints. And surgery is done when the joints are damaged severely because of the disease.
Medicines for RA sometimes carry serious side effects. Therefore, doctors prefer medicines having fewest side effects at the initial stage, but as the disease progresses, stronger medicines can be given by the doctor.
Initial medicine given in RA is usually non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs. RA being an autoimmune disease, it is caused by the confusion of white blood cells in understanding body’s own healthy tissues as foreign bodies and producing chemicals to kill them, which cause pain and inflammation. NSAIDs control these chemicals and thereby reduce pain and inflammation. Over-the-counter NSAIDs are ibuprofen and naproxen sodium. Stronger NSAIDs are available by prescription.
Steroids too are among the medicines for RA and they are prednisone and methylprednisolone, which too reduce pain and inflammation and slow down the damage to the joints. Other type of RA medicines is disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs or DMARDs. They slow down the progression of the disease and protect the joints and other tissues from getting damaged permanently. Methotrexate, hydroxychloroquine, sulfasalazine, leflunomide and minocycline are common DMARDs.
As the disease is caused by haywire immune system, immunosuppressants too are given to RA patients. They are azathioprine, cyclosporine and cyclophosphamide. Another important group of medicines among the rheumatoid arthritis treatment is TNF-α inhibitors. Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha (TNF-α) is an inflammatory chemical produced in the body. TNF-α inhibitors reduce inflammation, pain, stiffness, tenderness and swelling of joints. They are etanercept, infliximab and adalimumab. Several other drugs like anakinra, abatacept and rituximab too are used to treat RA.
Other form of the treatment of RA is occupational therapy, through which you learn to do everyday tasks without applying stress to your painful joints. It mainly consists of learning the use of other body parts to do the task if a particular organ cannot do it due to pain. Various assistive devices too can be used in this treatment, like a cane for giving support while walking, wheeled stools and trash cans which are easy to push, doorknob extenders, Velcro fasteners, tabs for zippers etc.
Sometimes, due to delay in diagnosis or some other reason, the disease progresses to the extent of damaging the joints. In such condition, surgery can be helpful to restore the damaged joint. It contains procedures like total joint replacement of arthroplasty, tendon repair, removal or joint lining or synovectomy and joint fusion or arthrodesis.
In addition to this there are various natural treatments, which have proven to be very useful for RA, though there is no clinical reasoning for their action. They are heat and cold compresses, magnets, mind/body therapy which includes deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, visualization, meditation and Chinese treatments like Tai Chi and acupuncture, biofeedback and supplements of fish oil, borage seed oil and thunder god vine. Thus there is a lot of scope for improvement with extensive rheumatoid arthritis treatment.