Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) treatment goals include inflammation control, pain relief, and reducing the disability associated with the disorder. In general, the treatment includes drugs, physical or occupational therapy, and regular exercise.
Some patients may require a surgical procedure to address joint damage. The key to good outcomes is early and aggressive treatment. The advanced treatment options available today can slow down, or in many cases, stop the progression of RA.
Drugs for Rheumatoid Arthritis
The doctor will likely prescribe a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) as a part of the RA treatment plan. While these drugs can provide pain relief and address swelling, they cannot slow down the progression of RA. Therefore, patients with moderate to severe RA will probably need to take other medications to prevent further damage to the joints.
“DMARDs” is the acronym for disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs. These medications slow or stop RA from becoming worse.
Doctors typically first prescribe methotrexate to treat RA. In case that alone does not adequately calm the swelling, doctors may try or add another type of DMARD. Other types of DMARDs include leflunomide (Arava), hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil), sulfasalazine (Azulfidine).
RA involves an overactive immune system attacking the joints and other body parts. While DMARDs can control the immune system, they are not selective in identifying their targets. This may cause an infection and various other side effects.
DMARDs, especially methotrexate, are a very effective treatment for severe RA and they may help save the joints.
The doctor may prescribe a biologic when methotrexate or other DMARDs are unable to relieve RA symptoms and swelling. Biologics are genetically engineered proteins.
They block specific areas of the immune system that are responsible for the swelling associated with RA. Biologics may slow or stop RA. Different biologics are used to target different regions of the brain.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Surgery
Patients experiencing unbearable joint pain and swelling or severely damaged joints may require joint replacement surgery. The most commonly replaced joints are the knees and hips, and at times, the shoulders.
Surgery can provide dramatic pain relief and mobility. A majority of patients wait for joint replacement surgery until after the age of 50 as artificial joint tend to wear down in a span of 15 to 20 years.
Artificial replacement is not very effective for certain joints, such as the ankles, which fare better with another surgery known as joint fusion.
Physical and Occupational Therapy
Physical and occupational therapy can make a vital difference in the patient’s day-to-day life. They are an integral part of any RA treatment plan.
Physical therapists can provide the patient with an exercise plan, explain how to use heat and ice, perform therapeutic massage, and motivate the patient.
Occupational therapists can help the patient manage their daily tasks, such as cooking or working on a computer, in an easier manner. Furthermore, they can recommend any gadgets that may help the patient.
Thomas & Bigler Knee & Shoulder Institute, led by board certified orthopedic surgeons Dr. Thomas and Dr. Bigler, receives patients for orthopedic surgery from Las Vegas, Nevada, and nearby areas.
If you would like to schedule an appointment or learn more about the Knee and Shoulder Institute procedures & treatments performed by Las Vegas, Nevada board-certified surgeons Steven C. Thomas, MD and Gregory T. Bigler, MD. Contact the office today click here.