The first strategy is to quickly reduce or stop inflammation and if possible, put the disease in remission with early, aggressive treatment. A treatment plan will also be developed to:
- Relieve symptoms
- Prevent joint and organ damage
- Improve physical function and overall well-being
- Reduce long-term complications
There are many different drugs used for different purposes in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
Medications That Ease Symptoms
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), available over-the-counter and by prescription, are used to help ease arthritis pain and inflammation. They include ibuprofen and naproxen sodium, among others.
Medications That Slow Disease Activity
Corticosteroid medications are potent and quick-acting anti-inflammatory medications. Because of the risk of side effects, doctors prefer to use these drugs for as short a time as possible and in lowest sufficient doses.
DMARDs, short for “disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs,” are drugs that work to modify the course of the disease. These medicines can be taken by mouth, injected or given as an infusion in a doctor’s office.
Biologics are a subset of DMARDs. They may work more quickly than traditional DMARDs, and are injected or given by infusion in a doctor’s office. Because they target specific steps in the inflammatory process, they don’t threaten the entire immune response as some other RA treatments do. In many people, a biologic can slow, modify or stop the disease, even when other treatments haven’t helped much.
JAK inhibitors, a new subcategory of DMARDs, block what is known as the Janus Kinase or JAK pathways, which are involved in the body’s immune response. Unlike biologics, they can be taken by mouth.
For people seeking relief from permanent damage that limits daily function, mobility and independence, joint replacement surgery is an option. The procedure involves replacing damaged parts of a joint with metal and plastic parts. Hip and knee replacements are most common. However, ankles, shoulders, wrists, elbows, and other joints may be considered for replacement.
Regular low-impact exercises, such as walking, and exercises can increase muscle strength. This will improve overall health and lower pressure on joints.