What is the best treatment for rheumatoid arthritis?

Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis includes different medicines and treatment methods. But, which one is effective?
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that is characterized by inflammation of the synovial lining in the joints.

As inflammation progresses, it could spread to different parts of the body, or it could remain localized. However, the longer you live with rheumatoid arthritis, the greater joint damage there is.

Three stages of RA:

In order to understand the effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, it is important to know how the disease progresses.

There are three stages in the development of the disease. In the first stage, patients experience swelling, warmth, redness, tenderness and/or pain.

In the second stage, the synovium thickens, leading to greater loss of mobility. In the last stage, the inflamed cells begin to attack the bones and the cartilage, leading to loss of movement and loss of structure or shape.

Rheumatoid arthritis may affect the small joints of the body (the most common site for inflammation), the musculoskeletal structures, the lungs, heart, blood vessels, nervous system, eyes and skin.

From the above, it is easy to see that RA is a chronic condition. Therefore, early treatment is a must for curbing the progress of the disease. Effective management of symptoms also depends on early treatments for rheumatoid arthritis.

Although there is no permanent cure for rheumatoid arthritis, treatment can help slow down inflammation and reduce symptoms. These are the aims of treatments for rheumatoid arthritis.

Non-pharmacologic treatment for rheumatoid arthritis:

  • Physical therapy can help increase muscle strength, alleviate pain and improve the range of motion enjoyed by patients.
  • Hydrotherapy (exercising in water) is highly relaxing and soothing. Warm water relaxes the muscles and brings immediate relief.
  • Relaxation therapy also helps induce deep relaxation, which in turn relieves pain.
  • Heat and cold treatments are helpful in relieving pain and eliminating stiffness.
  • A number of exercises like Tai Chi and Yoga can help improve flexibility and keep pain at bay.
  • Changes in diet are suggested to help combat inflammation and improve the immunity of the body.
  • Natural, herbal products and nutritional supplements are helpful in curbing infection and relieving pain, if used properly.
  • A number of complimentary approaches like acupuncture are also used.

Pharmacological treatment for rheumatoid arthritis:

  • Pain killers and NSAIDs (Non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs) are used in a stepwise manner, going from the mildest to more potent drugs depending on the severity of symptoms.
  • Within 3 months of diagnosis, patients are put on DMARDs (disease modifying antirheumatic drugs) because of better outcomes. These drugs, although potent, result in less disability and greater pain relief. Joint damage may well be reversed.
  • BRMs (Biologic Response Modifiers) block certain cells of the immune system. This slows down the autoimmune reaction of the body.
  • Glucocorticosteroids are strong anti-inflammatory drugs that are sued to relieve pain and prevent joint damage.

In acute cases, surgery may be needed to replace badly damaged joints.

Thus, it may be concluded that:

1. Early treatment for rheumatoid arthritis is the key to preventing further damage.

2. Any one treatment for rheumatoid arthritis may not be sufficient to provide maximum relief. The secret to conquering the disease may be in effective combination therapy.

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