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Rheumatoid Arthritis - Treatments

There is no cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Nevertheless, there are various treatment strategies focused on alleviating the symptoms, preventing further joint destruction, and regaining lost muscle strength and mobility.

  • Medication
    • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often prescribed to reduce pain, swelling and stiffness. Reducing pain and swelling are important as they make you more comfortable. However, these drugs will only reduce the symptoms and have no effect on stopping the progression of the disease.
    • Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are often prescribed. These include hydroxychloroquine, methotrexate, sulphasalazine and leflunomide. Low dose steroids may be used initially. Steroids are usually taken as oral tablets. Steroids can also be injected directly into a joint to relieve pain and swelling. However, steroids cannot be used in the long term, especially in high doses because they have significant side-effects.
    • There are two relatively new group of drugs called biologic agents and small molecules, which can control the disease quickly and effectively. Depending on the specific drug, these drugs are given as intravenous / subcutaneous injections or oral tablets. Biologic agents and small molecules are expensive. Not all Rheumatoid Arthritis patients are suitable for or need such drugs.

  • Exercise / Physiotherapy
Once the inflammation is under control, it is necessary to rebuild the muscles and ligaments weakened by the arthritis. Exercise helps to rebuild muscle strength which can aid to stabilise the joints. While some sports which stress the joints excessively are not suitable, recovering patients should aim to keep fit as much as possible. It is important not to exercise the acutely swollen and painful joints. Your physiotherapist is the best person to ask for advice.

  • Surgery
Sometimes surgery is necessary to correct joint deformity or to replace a completely destroyed joint.

Rheumatoid Arthritis - Other Information