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Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Range of Treatment

By Myers, Wyatt
Content provided by: Better Medicine from Healthgrades

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can be a frustrating condition to deal with. It causes painful, tender, swollen joints. These flare-ups of pain can occur at different times, such as in the morning or after a long rest.

RA is also challenging because it doesn’t have an easily identifiable cause. It’s an autoimmune disorder, which means your immune system literally attacks your body—in this case, your joints.

Fortunately, new drug combinations have shown great promise in helping people manage RA symptoms. Experts now also realize that self-care strategies are important in managing RA symptoms.

New medications

One class of drugs often used to treat RA is called disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). These medications slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis and have been successful for many patients.

The newest drugs for RA are a type of DMARD known as biologic response modifiers. These cutting-edge medications work on the genetic level to stop the chain of events that lead to pain and inflammation.

There are many biologic response modifiers currently approved for treating RA:

  • Abatacept (Orencia)

  • Adalimumab (Humira)

  • Anakinra (Kineret)

  • Certolizumab (Cimzia)

  • Etanercept (Enbrel)

  • Golimumab (Simponi)

  • Infliximab (Remicade)

  • Rituximab (Rituxan)

  • Tocilizumab (Actemra)

Although these are the newest drugs for RA, other medications are also used to treat the condition. More conventional pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen, are often used to treat the pain related to RA. In some instances, strong pain relievers or inflammation reducers in the form of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroids may be prescribed by your health care provider.

Changing approach to RA

In recent years, doctors have changed their approach to treating RA. They used to begin treatment with mild pain relievers and only prescribed more serious medication as the condition worsened. But doctors now know that if they start treatment with strong medication first, they may be able to slow the joint damage caused by the disease.

Depending on your individual prognosis and how you react to the medication, your doctor will likely use some combination of the medications mentioned above to treat your RA.

Self-care strategies for RA

Doctors now also realize how critical it is for you to take care of your body to slow the spread of RA. For example, in studies, fish oil supplements have helped manage the symptoms of RA. But talk with your health care provider before starting a fish oil supplement on your own.

Other approaches that can go a long way toward keeping you feeling your best with RA include eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and doing exercises and stretches that are easy on the joints but also keep your body healthy and limber.

Considering the seriousness of RA, it might be a good idea to work with a dietitian and a physical therapist on strategies that can help. Then, you can gain the confidence to follow through on your own. 

Medical Reviewer: Weisbart, Ed, MD, Ziegler, Olivia Walton, MS, PA-C Last Annual Review Date: November 1, 2012 Copyright: © 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

Reference: Rheumatoid Arthritis section on Better Medicine

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