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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis strikes three out of every ten people with arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis affects not only the joints, but almost every organ in the body as well. A patient with this form of arthritis can have problems with the skin, lungs, heart, nerves, kidneys, spleen, eyes, muscles, blood vessels, as well as the tendons and bursae.

People with rheumatoid arthritis may initially suffer from early morning pain and stiffness. The joints may become swollen, hot, or reddened. These symptoms are the result of inflammation occurring within the body. This inflammation is the body's way of fighting the arthritis. Unfortunately, after long periods of uncontrolled inflammation, fatigue and joint damage may occur. Early diagnosis and treatment may prevent many of the problems associated with chronic arthritis.

The diagnosis is only made after a careful study of the symptoms, a comprehensive physical examination, blood tests, and x-rays. Fortunately, physicians can successfully control the inflammation and are capable of reducing the pain and discomfort while working to prevent the deformity associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

Many medications are available which reduce inflammation. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID's) are very helpful. These medications are often the first line of treatment in combating rheumatoid arthritis. Recently a new class of NSAID's has been developed. These new medications called COX-2 inhibitors, may have less side effects than their older counterparts. Additionally, you may be prescribed special exercises, advised on techniques of reduction of emotional stress, and instructed in a proper diet. All play a major role in the treatment of arthritis.

Drugs used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis are those which control joint inflammation. As noted above, initial therapeutic medications are usually non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. If the arthritis is progressive and not controlled by these medications, other therapies may be recommended. These therapies may include the use of gold, Plaquenil (hydroxychloraquine), D-Penicillamine, Imuran, Cytoxan and Enbrel (Tumor Necrosis Factor Remicade Humira) and Arava (Lefunomide). No one is certain how these medications work. Nonetheless, scientific studies have shown that a majority of patients with rheumatoid arthritis will experience a good to excellent response to these medications. These medications are called disease-modifying agents because it is believed to slow the process of rheumatoid arthritis.

Another category of medication has been developed and used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. These medications are called immunosuppressive agents and include Imuran, Methotrexate Cytoxan and Arava. These drugs are very powerful and are usually reserved for patients with rheumatoid arthritis that have not responded to other forms of treatment. Immunosuppressive therapy is usually administered under the supervision of a rheumatologist.

These medications have been developed in the fight against. These drugs have been shown much promise in treating patients who have not responded to simple "first-line" drugs. These drug may be used either alone or in combination with methotrexate.

Great advances have been made over recent years in the diagnosis and treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. The days when a patient was in constant pain and confined to a wheelchair with arthritis have past. Powerful new drugs, combined with physical therapy and joint surgery, have revolutionized the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

Knee Joint with Arthritis

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All medications have potential side effects, risks and interactions with other medications as well as over the counter drugs. Not all medications are right for all patients. You should always check with your physician or health care provider prior to the use of any medication.