What if one day you woke up and your entire elbow joint was so swollen you couldn’t move it? For no reason?
Well then, you may want to go get screened for Rheumatoid arthritis. It’s an immune disease where your body attacks joints and joint fluid instead of actual threats.
It’s a painful disease, but there is a range of Rheumatoid arthritis therapies. Learn about them below.
If you or someone you love has RA and it’s a new diagnosis, it’s okay to feel overwhelmed or panicked. You won’t be the first or the last person frantically googling about effective therapies.
As you’ll find out, there is no cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis. It’s something the patient will deal with for the rest of their life. The good news is – there are periods of time where the RA can go into remission.
That’s the goal of treating RA, to get someone into remission and keep them there. Or to make their symptoms so unnoticeable that they feel like remission is possible.
There are a few ways doctors achieve this. There are medication and non-medication therapies. Doctors usually use a mix of both.
If doctors can successfully stop inflammation from popping up and stop it where it’s already started – that’s remission. We call this “treat to target.
When you’re in remission, you have no active inflammation and no pain. Doctors measure this by calculating your disease activity score or DAS28. You’re looking for a score of 2.6 or under to be considered in remission.
You’re not going to achieve remission naturally, not without a lot of luck. Most doctors will use a combination of anti-inflammatories and corticosteroids when chasing remission.
NSAIDs are the main type of anti-inflammatories used by those with RA. They’re things you know as Naproxen Sodium (a key ingredient in Aleve). Ibuprofen is also common, though overuse of the drug can cause stomach ulcers.
If your doctor is worried about stomach lining irritation, they can prescribe you an NSAID called a COX-2 inhibitor. It does the same thing as other anti-inflammatories, but it’s gentler on the stomach.
It can come in oral form, but most people will apply it in a patch or with a spot-cream treatment to irritated areas.
Along with NSAIDs, your doctor may prescribe Corticosteroids.
Steroids get a bad name from the sports industry, but they’re a life-saving set of medications for many people. Common steroids like prednisolone and methylprednisolone are used to treat RA.
These steroids are like very strong anti-inflammatories and can get large areas of irritation under control. However, they have a good range of side effects.
Some people notice big mood changes or loss of appetite while on steroids. For those reasons, Doctors prefer to use steroids as a spot treatment and let another drug take over once the damage is under control.
You can also suffer some immune system issues while on a course of steroids, so they’re not ideal for already at-risk patients.
This acronym stands for disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, which do exactly what they say. They change the way the disease acts and develops in your body.
Once the initial or incoming inflammation is under control, DMARDs can come in and prevent future outbreaks. They don’t last forever and they’re not perfect, but they’re a good tool to have in your treatment.
Common options include methotrexate, hydroxychloroquine, and azathioprine. You can take them by mouth or they can be injected at your doctors’ office.
The second to last strain of drugs that treat RA work a lot like DMARDs, except, they work faster. They’re easier on the immune systems and are usually something doctors save for last – when other treatments aren’t working.
Finally, we have the drug class of JAK inhibitors, which are related to DMARDs. However, unlike DMARDs, they block one specific kinase.
The Janus kinase protein is one of the body chemicals that tells your body to attack your joints. By blocking it, we can cut down on the rate of inflammation.
With an idea of the medical route, doctors may take with RA, let’s talk about hitting it from the natural angle. A lot of people with RA swear by getting regular massages.
This may not help the symptoms from a remission standpoint, but it does treat the stiffness in surrounding areas.
When you have RA, you’re tired all the time. Your body is attacking itself, which takes a lot of energy.
Though it sounds counterintuitive, exercising actually helps you keep your energy levels up. It also increases the flow of everything throughout the body.
It’s not going to cure your already inflamed joints, but it may help cut down on stiffness and keep current inflammation from worsening.
Make sure you talk to a physical therapist before you exercise with active RA. You don’t want to over-do anything and make your symptoms worse.
They’re going to tell you to avoid high impact activities, like running or any sort of jumping.
If you have joints that are commonly inflamed, they may give you specific strengthening exercises to increase the range of motion.
People with RA are shown to benefit from the ancient art of Tai Chi. Think of it as yoga, but in motion. The slow but controlled movement benefits healthy and unhealthy joints alike.
If you or a loved one was diagnosed with RA, your doctor may try one or a combination of many of the rheumatoid arthritis therapies above.
Each patient is different and their treatment will change as the disease ebbs and flows. That’s why it’s so important to have a doctor you can see and work with regularly.
If you live in the Thousand Oaks, CA area, contact us here for a complete consultation.