Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder for which there is no cure. RA causes painful, swollen joints, and can lead to permanent deformity and loss of joint movement if not treated in time.

However, early detection and treatment can slow or even prevent the progression of this disease. The treatment for rheumatoid arthritis may involve trying several strategies, and can change over the course of the disease.

Treatment focuses on reducing or eliminating inflammation. There are several types of drugs that have been shown to be effective. Because of the possible side effects of some drugs, doctors recommend more conservative treatments and shorter courses of drug treatments. Since rheumatoid arthritis is a life-long condition, treatment needs to be appropriate for the long haul.

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly recommended to alleviate symptoms of RA, and are available over the counter or by prescription.

Steroids can slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis, but can cause serious side effects such as cataracts, elevated blood sugar levels, osteoporosis, and others. Although extremely effective, steroids are usually used as a short-term treatment to get symptoms under control.

Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are an extremely effective class of medication that halt inflammation. Some have an inadvertent weakening effect on the immune system, but there are new drugs being developed that act with precision on RA-affected joints.

Physical therapy can help patients at any stage in RA. Exercises can help maintain range of motion and alleviate needless stress on the joints by learning new ways to accomplish tasks. Surgery to remove affected tissue or to replace joints such as the knee of hip may sometimes be indicated if the joint is severely damaged. And last but not least, certain diet and lifestyle choices can have a profound effect on treating the symptoms of RA.

Tucson Orthopaedic Institute’s orthopedic physicians are experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of joint damage. They work with our own certified physical therapists to help patients keep moving with as little pain as possible. Expert care is available to all our patients. Contact one of our convenient locations in the Tucson, Arizona area for an appointment today, or request an appointment online.