Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis Today

Rheumatoid Arthritis treatment with Biologics

The turn of the millennium brought another new age to Rheumatoid Arthritis treatment. A new class of drugs known as “biologic response modifiers” inhibits or modifies the immune responses within the Rheumatoid Arthritis patient. These medicines actually target the mechanisms within the immune system which lead to the inflammation and destruction of tissue.

In some patients, “biologics,” as they are called, can slow or possibly prevent further damage to joints or other bodily systems which are typically attacked by the Rheumatoid Arthritis. Brands such as Enbrel and Humira are injected at home by the RA patient. Others, such as Remicade and Orencia are administered by infusion intravenously in an outpatient setting.

Biologics can dramatically increase risk of infection due to their direct action upon the immune system. And while there are additional side effects and risks involved, they have brought incredible results to many otherwise hopeless Rheumatoid Arthritis patients. They are labeled as most effective if used with methotrexate.

Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis with combinations of DMARDs

Rheumatoid Arthritis treatment today can be as individual as patients are. Rheumatologists often use combinations of two or three disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), including one biologic, to attempt to bring remission of the Rheumatoid Arthritis. Although it sounds risky, it is preferable to accepting a lifetime of treating only the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis with drugs which also take a profound toll on a patient – who is already afflicted by a very harsh disease.

If remission is not achieved or retained, the combination of DMARDs can be altered. There are also newer drugs which help some RA patients when they find DMARDs to be ineffective. Originally developed as a cancer drug, Rituxan is administered by a nurse by infusion. It works by decreasing B cells. There are always many rumors of experimental treatments in the pipeline for Rheumatoid Arthritis, including gene therapies like dnaJP1, which may retrain immune system responses instead of just suppress them.

Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain

Regardless of disease treatment, Rheumatoid Arthritis patients usually require regular treatment of symptoms (pain, stiffness, and swelling) also in order to accomplish any daily tasks. These symptom treatments complement the actual treatment of the RA itself, they cannot replace it. Medicinal treatments include mild pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprophen (Advil) and the many innovative NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Lower dose steroids are still used by many patients to help manage Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms. More potent pain relievers are often prescribed for RA patients to use on an “as needed only” basis to manage pain. Therapies such as massage and physical or occupational therapy help many RA patients to retain some flexibility. Acupuncture provides pain relief for some RA patients. When the Rheumatoid Arthritis allows for it, gentle yoga movements or other exercise always helps retain bone mass, flexibility and energy levels.  Searching for the most effective method of relief is part of the lifestyle of most who suffer from RA. 

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Nutrition

Although no study has shown that diet can either modify or cure Rheumatoid Arthritis, nutrition remains a significant aspect of Rheumatoid Arthritis treatment. Although, there is no treatment which specifically addresses the issue of fatigue, a healthy diet with high amounts of protein will give the RA patient as much energy as possible.

Specific vitamins and other supplements also are necessary to counter the many side effects of the treatments of the Rheumatoid Arthritis. For example, prescription levels of folic acid, a B vitamin, can prevent or alleviate side effects of methotrexate because of its anti-folate effect. Certain aspects of the disease can also be combated nutritionally. An example is Omega-3, which can possibly provide some protection against one kind of damage that the disease causes to the eye. Another instance is calcium and Vitamin D which can help prevent the osteoporosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Many nutrients are being found to have anti-inflammatory effects, which can help some RA patients with some RA symptoms, when included in their diets on a regular basis.

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