By Carol Eustice, About.com Guide
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.
- Arthritis Drugs: What are My Options?
- Arthritis Medications - Test Your Knowledge
- All About Arthritis Medications
- Decade of Arthritis Drugs
- How Do You Weigh Benefits and Risks of Arthritis Treatment?
- What Are Drug Side Effects?
- ACR Recommendations for the Treatment of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
- Medications and Alcohol
- Arthritis Treatment - What to Expect
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.
- Test Your Knowledge - NSAIDs
- The Facts of NSAIDs
- Voltaren (diclofenac) - What You Need to Know
- Naproxen - What You Need to Know
- Ibuprofen - What You Need to Know
- Two NSAIDs Are Not Better Than One
- Low-dose Aspirin and NSAIDs - A Safe Combination?
- What Are NSAIDs?
- FDA Regulatory Actions on COX-2 Inhibitors & NSAIDs
- More: NSAIDs
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.
- The Facts of Analgesics (Painkillers)
- What Are Analgesics?
- Tylenol / Acetaminophen: 10 Things You Should Know
- What Is Tylenol Arthritis Pain?
- What Is Extra Strength Tylenol?
- Darvocet - 10 Things You Should Know
- Tramadol - 10 Things You Should Know
- When Is Toradol Appropriate for Arthritis Patients?
- When Are Pain Medications Appropriate for Arthritis Patients?
- Preventing Abuse Of Prescription Drugs And Pain Medications
- More: Analgesics
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.
- The Facts of Corticosteroids
- Prednisone: 10 Things You Should Know
- Prednisone Quiz - True or False?
- Prednisone Withdrawal Symptoms Minimized By Tapering
- Longterm Prednisone Use - Benefits versus Risks
- Medrol Dosepak - What You Need to Know
- Are Cortisone Shots Painful?
- How to Manage Weight Gain From Prednisone
- More: Corticosteroids
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.
- The Facts of DMARDs
- Methotrexate: 10 Things You Should Know
- Methotrexate for Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Is Methotrexate Injection Better Than Oral Methotrexate?
- What Are Cytotoxic Drugs?
- Is Early, Aggressive Treatment Recommended For RA?
- Is Infection a Side Effect of DMARDs / Biologics?
- More: DMARDs
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.
- Biologics Explained
- TNF-alpha Blockers - What You Need to Know
- Biologic Response Modifier - What Is It?
- What Is a Monoclonal Antibody?
- What Are Cytokines?
- Biologic Drugs - Are Some Patients Unsuitable?
- Do Biologics Prevent Joint Damage and Deformity?
- The Facts of Enbrel
- The Facts of Remicade
- The Facts of Humira
- The Facts of Rituxan
- Orencia for Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Orencia - 10 Things You Should Know
- Actemra - What You Should Know
- Cimzia - What You Need to Know
- Simponi (Golimumab) - What You Should Know
- Biologics and Risk of Infection
- Test Your Knowledge - TNF Blockers (Enbrel, Remicade, Humira)
- Self-injection of Arthritis Drugs
- More: Biologics
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.
- Ways to Manage Your Pain
- Pain Relief Quiz - How Much Do You Know About Relieving Pain?
- The Pain Quiz: Acute or Chronic Pain?
- 10 Ways to Increase Your Pain
- Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program Is Effective
- 22 Recommendations for Treatment of Knee Osteoarthritis
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.
- Alternative Treatments for Arthritis: Awareness is the Key
- Traditional and Alternative Treatments - Where Should the Paths Cross?
- Rheumatoid Arthritis Not Helped by Dietary Changes
- Fish Oil - What You Need to Know
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.
- Top Arthritis Cream Products
- BENGAY - What You Need to Know
- Voltaren Gel - What You Need to Know
- More: Topical Medications
Joint Surgery Options
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.