Have you ever heard your grandparents complained about pains in their joints particularly on their wrists, knees and ankles? It’s only normal for people of their age to experience such discomfort as they are prone to rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints, commonly the ones found in the hands and feet. It affects the lining of the joints which results in a painful swelling, which, in severe cases and later stages of the disease, can lead to bone erosion and joint deformity.
Although there is no cure, a range of treatment for rheumatoid arthritis is available. The treatment provides relief from the pain and inflammation while helping to maximize joint function and reduce deformity as much as possible.
The treatment for rheumatoid arthritis is only effective when taken with holistic care, together with much rest, medication, joint-strengthening therapy, and education. Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis may also be customized to the patient’s occupation, age, gender, health condition, and joint activity.
The medications used to treat rheumatoid arthritis fall into two categories: the first-line drugs, which are fast acting medications, and the second-line drugs, which are slow-acting.
First-line treatment for rheumatoid arthritis includes steroids and aspirin, and aim to reduce the pain and inflammation caused by the disease. On the other hand, second-line treatment such as methotrexate, gold, and hydroxychloroquine, basically act to prevent further joint destruction.
Common treatments from both categories are:
- NSAIDS, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are effective in reducing pain and inflammation. The NSAIDS treatment for rheumatoid arthritis can be bought over-the-counter at pharmacies, such as ibuprofen and other painkillers. There are also stronger versions of these medications used to treat more severe cases, but require a prescription to obtain.
- Immunosuppressants act to tame the immune system which, as a result of rheumatoid arthritis, becomes out of control. However, a side effect of this treatment for rheumatoid arthritis is that it increases one’s vulnerability to infections.
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs work to slow the development of the arthritis and save the joints as well as other tissues from further damage.
- TNF-alpha inhibitors are another treatment for rheumatoid arthritis which is also actually an inflammatory substance produced by our bodies. These are effective in minimizing pain, swelling, and tender joints which usually occur during initial stages of treatment.
For some extreme cases, treatment for rheumatoid arthritis may not be enough and your doctor may deem it best to resort to surgery.
Rest is one of the most important factors when dealing with treatment and medication, and no matter which type of medication you resort to, you should always get enough rest to avoid further straining of your muscles. Avoid performing rigorous exercises or subjecting yourself to a lot of stress.
In order to supplement treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, physical therapy is also recommended.
An occupational therapist can help you deal with simple everyday tasks which the disease may make an obstacle, such as picking up objects, walking, or holding items.
Along with therapy and treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, your doctor may also prescribe the use of additional supportive devices that you can use to make daily life easier.
Other patients also use natural remedies like drinking ginger tea or including herbs in their diet.