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Your Essential Guide to Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment Options
A new rheumatoid arthritis (RA) diagnosis can be alarming. You’re already in pain and the doctor says there’s no cure, and the disease can get worse over time. The good news is that there are plenty of rheumatoid arthritis treatment options to help you. Some treatments help with immediate symptoms, such as pain relief, while others help to slow the progression of the disease.
Some treatment options, like changing your diet, you can do yourself. Others involve teamwork with your consultant to find the best combination of medications to suit your personal needs.
Familiarize yourself with the most common rheumatoid arthritis treatments so that you can start making an action plan to combat pain today.
An anti-inflammatory diet can help to reduce overall inflammation in your body. This, in turn, will help your RA symptoms as your pain from inflammation reduces.
Simple changes, such as avoiding refined carbohydrates, can be all it takes to help your body. If you’re not sure how to start, your rheumatology consultant may be able to recommend a nutrition expert to further advise you on a personalized food plan.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) form the first step to RA treatment. Common NSAIDs, such as naproxen, will be prescribed to help minimize your pain. Taking NSAIDs long-term can affect the stomach. Your physician may prescribe additional medication to prevent damage to your stomach lining if you take NSAIDs.
NSAIDs are an inexpensive and readily available treatment option for pain. They’re effective in reducing pain for a few hours; however, they’re not the only painkiller option you may be offered.
For severe pain, your physician may prescribe opioid-based painkillers. These are much more effective at reducing your pain but come with a high risk of serious side effects – including opiate dependency. Other side effects include nausea, drowsiness, and mental confusion.
Your doctor may prescribe a course of steroids in pill form to help manage inflammation and reduce your pain. However, you can also ask for corticosteroid injections directly into your worst-affected joints.
These injections provide longer-term pain relief with fewer side effects than a pill-based course of steroids.
Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs)
Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs) help people with rheumatoid arthritis by slowing the damage the disease causes to the body.
Common DMARDs include:
Your rheumatology consultant will recommend a combination of these to start your treatment program. They can take several months to make a difference, so it’s important to start them as early as possible to make sure your RA doesn’t become more severe before you receive treatment.
DMARDs can’t reverse RA, but they can help to slow the degenerative processes that affect your joints and make the disease worse over time.
Anti-TNF Biologic Drug Treatments
When RA progresses to a greater level of severity your physician will recommend trying anti-TNF biologic drugs. These drugs come with more serious side effects than DMARDs but have a good chance of significantly reducing the symptoms of serious RA.
Most of the new biologics work by targeting a protein in the body called Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF). These drugs are still quite new and may be used as an alternative to, or in combination with, DMARDs.
Both DMARDs and anti-TNF biologics treatments attack elements of the immune system to be effective. This means your immune system can become compromised, leaving you prone to infections and other illnesses.
However, they will significantly reduce the progression of the disease, so it’s important to discuss your options with your consultant before you decide whether to try these treatments.
Some RA patients benefit from surgical intervention to manage their pain. Hip replacements, for example, can help reduce the pain of eroded cartilage in the natural hip socket.
Surgery isn’t always as serious as hip replacements, either. Smaller procedures, such as arthroscopy on the knee, help to clean out and smooth roughened cartilage in the joint to reduce pain.
Try Electrical Stimulation for Pain Relief
Managing your day-to-day pain is the hardest part of RA. Some days you’ll feel fine, while other days you will want to stay in bed all day.
Electrical stimulation devices like BioWaveGO help you to manage your pain wherever you are – so you don’t have to let RA interrupt your life. Electrical impulses sent through the skin create a nerve block that can last up to 24 hours to significantly reduce your pain.
Contact us to find out more about using BioWaveGO as part of your pain management and rheumatoid arthritis treatment plan.