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Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Range of Treatments

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can be a frustrating condition to deal with. It causes painful, tender, swollen joints. These flare-ups of pain can occur at different times, such as in the morning or after a long rest.

RA is also challenging because it doesn’t have an easily identifiable cause. It’s an autoimmune disorder, which means your immune system literally attacks your body — in this case, your joints.

Fortunately, new drug combinations show great promise in helping people manage RA symptoms. Experts now emphasize that self-care strategies are also important in managing RA symptoms.

New medications

Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are a class of drugs often used to treat RA. These medications slow the progression of RA and have been successful for many patients.

Biologic response modifiers, the newest drugs for RA, are a type of DMARD. These cutting-edge medications work on the genetic level to stop the chain of events that lead to pain and inflammation.

There are many biologic response modifiers currently approved for treating RA:

  • Abatacept (Orencia)

  • Adalimumab (Humira)

  • Anakinra (Kineret)

  • Certolizumab (Cimzia)

  • Etanercept (Enbrel)

  • Golimumab (Simponi)

  • Infliximab (Remicade)

  • Rituximab (Rituxan)

  • Tocilizumab (Actemra)

Although these are the newest drugs for RA, you may also use other medications to treat your condition, such as conventional pain relievers like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen. Sometimes, your health care provider may prescribe strong pain relievers or inflammation reducers in the form of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroids.

Changing approach to rheumatoid arthritis

In recent years, doctors have changed their approach to treating RA. They used to begin treatment with mild pain relievers and  prescribed more serious medication only as the condition worsened. Doctors now recognize that by starting treatment with strong medication, they may be able to slow the joint damage the disease causes.

Depending on your individual prognosis and how you react to the medication, your doctor will likely use some combination of medications to treat your RA.

Self-care strategies for rheumatoid arthritis

Doctors now also realize how critical it is for you to take good care of your body to slow the spread of RA. In certain studies, for example, fish oil supplements showed that they help to manage the symptoms of RA. Before you begin a fish oil supplement on your own, however, consult your health care provider.

Other approaches that can help you feel your best with RA include eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and doing exercises and stretches that are easy on the joints and keep you healthy and limber. It might also be a good idea to work with a dietitian and a physical therapist on strategies that are best for you. This will give you the confidence to follow through on your own.