Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder that affects one or more joints. In addition to the damage it causes to the joints, body systems like lungs, heart, blood vessels and skin will be affected by the disorder. In rheumatoid arthritis, the lining of our joints is primarily affected and it results in painful swelling that could ultimately lead to joint deformity and bone erosion.
The medications generally recommended for rheumatoid arthritis include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: These drugs are used to reduce pain and inflammation in the joints. NSAIDs include ibuprofen and naproxen sodium. Some NSAIDs may lead to side effects like stomach irritation, kidney damage, and heart problems.
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs: The drugs save the joints and tissues from permanent damage by slowing down the progression of rheumatoid arthritis. Examples of DMARDs are hydroxychloroquine, sulfasalzine, leflunomide, and methotrexate.
- Steroids: Corticosteroid medications reduce inflammation and pain symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and slow down joint damage. There may be side effects like weight gain, thinning of bones, and diabetes.
- Biologic agents: They are a newer class of DMARDs that includes adalimumab, abatacept, etanercept, sarilumab, etc.
You may consult a physical therapist to learn new exercises to keep your joints flexible. You can adopt new ways of doing daily tasks to reduce strain on your joints. You may also use assistive devices to avoid stressing out affected joints.
Surgery may be recommended when the medications fail to check the progression of rheumatoid arthritis. One or more of the following procedures may be involved in rheumatoid arthritis surgery.
- Tendon repair: Tendons around joints may become loose or even rupture due to inflammation and damage to the joints. Surgery can be performed to repair the tendons around the affected joints.
- Synovectomy: Synovium is the lining of the joints in our body. If a joint has become inflamed, its synovium can be removed by surgery.
- Joint fusion: When joint replacement surgery cannot be considered, the fusion of a joint by surgery may be recommended as a treatment option.
- Total joint replacement: In a joint replacement surgery, the damaged parts of the joint are removed and prosthesis made of suitable material like plastic or metal is inserted.
Although the disease has no permanent cure, early diagnosis prevents the condition from getting worse. It is important to conduct a detailed diagnostic checkup if you notice any symptoms that are characteristic of RA.