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Arthritis Treatments

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An effective arthritis treatment regimen can help manage the disease. There are many treatment options which you should know about. Over time, you may try several different treatments and medications. Finding the best treatment for you can be a long process. Learn about your options.
  1. Medication Options
  2. NSAIDs
  3. Analgesics (Painkillers)
  4. Corticosteroids (Steroids)
  5. DMARDs
  1. Biologic Drugs
  2. Pain Relief
  3. Natural Remedies
  4. Topical Arthritis Treatments
  5. Joint Surgery Options

Medication Options

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There are several classes of arthritis medications that work to control arthritis symptoms, prevent joint damage, and improve mobility and function. Basically, there are 5 categories of arthritis medications: NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), analgesics (painkillers), corticosteroids, DMARDs (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs), and the newer biologics. Learn about the drugs in each category. Know your options.

NSAIDs

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NSAIDs have been used to treat arthritis for more than thirty years. NSAIDs have anti-inflammatory, analgesic (painkilling), and anti-pyretic (fever-reducing) properties. The drugs can cause potentially serious side effects. Patients must weigh benefits and risks of taking NSAIDs.

Analgesics (Painkillers)

Analgesics are a class of drugs used to relieve pain. The pain relief induced by analgesics occurs either by blocking pain signals going to the brain or by interfering with the brain's interpretation of the signals, without producing anesthesia or loss of consciousness. There are basically two kinds of analgesics: non-narcotics and narcotics.

Corticosteroids (Steroids)

Corticosteroids are drugs closely related to cortisol, a hormone which is naturally produced in the adrenal cortex (the outer layer of the adrenal gland). In 1948, at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, a group of arthritis patients were given daily injections of a corticosteroid. The results were so striking and the improvement so dramatic that it was thought that the "cure" for arthritis had been discovered. However, as the use of corticosteroids expanded over the years, significant side effects emerged. They are still used (orally and by injection) to knock down inflammation.

DMARDs

DMARDs (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs) appear to decrease inflammation, though they are not categorized as anti-inflammatory drugs. They are unlike NSAIDs in that they do not decrease prostaglandin production, do not directly relieve pain, nor reduce fever. In effect, DMARDs slow the disease process by modifying the immune system.

Biologic Drugs

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Biologic response modifiers (biologics) stimulate or restore the ability of the immune system to fight disease and/or infection. For example, TNF-alpha is one of the most important cytokines involved in rheumatoid arthritis through its entanglement in the cascade of inflammatory reactions. Anti-TNF drugs bind to TNF-alpha, rendering it inactive and interfering with inflammatory activity -- ultimately decreasing joint damage. Anti-TNF drugs are just one type of biologic drug developed for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

Pain Relief

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Pain serves as the signal that something is wrong in the body. Chronic pain can interfere with daily living. It is important to find ways to manage pain and minimize its negative impact. There are both pharmacologic (drug) and non-pharmacologic options to learn about and try. Always consult your doctor before trying a new treatment.

Natural Remedies

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Alternative and natural treatments have gained popularity and serve as a complement to traditional therapies. Some treatments get little respect regarding their effectiveness, plus there may be warnings for potential drug interactions and side effects. While some patients claim they have had success with natural remedies, others claim there isn't enough scientific research to back it up. It is definitely important to be well-informed about any treatment you wish to try and remember to first discuss it with your doctor.

Topical Arthritis Treatments

Topical arthritis products are preparations applied to the skin. Many of the arthritis cream products are available over-the-counter. Effective for soothing minor arthritis and muscle pain, some contain the active ingredient salicylate, while others are based on the pain-relieving effect of capsaicin or menthol.

Joint Surgery Options

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Joint surgery is usually considered a last resort treatment option for arthritis patients. It is usually considered when damage to a particular joint greatly interferes with mobility and function. Many patients have had great success with joint surgery, especially joint replacement surgery. If surgery is an option for you, learn about what to expect before, during, and after the procedure.

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