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What Are the Main Treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Updated on February 21, 2015


Although rheumatoid arthritis is an incurable disease, there are still a number of effective treatments that can reduce the symptoms, slow the illness and improve a patient's quality of life. This article explores the main ways that rheumatoid arthritis can be treated including exercise, medication, physical therapy and rest.

Rheumatoid arthritis can be a painful and debilitating illness, but fortunately there are several treatments for the condition that can help to relieve a patient's suffering and improve their mobility.

Although there is no cure for the illness, these methods can significantly improve a patient's quality of life when they are used regularly. We'll explore:

  • Goals when treating rheumatoid arthritis
  • The main treatments for the disease
  • Medication for arthritis

There are some effective treatments for rheumatoid arthritis
There are some effective treatments for rheumatoid arthritis | Source

Goals when treating rheumatoid arthritis

When treating rheumatoid arthritis, the main goals are to:

  • Prevent further damage to the patient's limbs or joints.
  • Reduce any inflammation and swelling of limbs and joints.
  • Reduce the patient's pain and discomfort.
  • Increase the quality of life, mobility and activity of the patient.

Early diagnosis and treatment can substantially improve the outcome for the patient and help to manage the long-term impact of the disease.

The main treatments for rheumatoid arthritis are physical therapy, exercise, rest, education and medication. Each of these are explored in more detail below.

Physical therapy and joint strengthening exercises

Regular, repeated exercises and gentle physical therapy are designed to strengthen muscles and joints. These exercises normally need to be repeated several times a day by the patient and can be effective in slowing down the degenerative aspects of the disease and reducing further joint damage.

Physical therapy can help to reduce ongoing damage from arthritis
Physical therapy can help to reduce ongoing damage from arthritis | Source

Resting the areas affected by the illness

Part of the treatment plan for rheumatoid arthritis is making sure that any joints and limbs affected by the illness are properly rested and are not put under unusual strain or pressure.

Educating the patient about their illness

Alongside physical treatments for the condition, it's also important that the patient and their family learn about how to manage the illness on a day-to-day basis. Patients can learn how to reduce the impact of their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

Medication for rheumatoid arthritis

Medication is one of the main methods for treating rheumatoid arthritis. Normally, two types of medication are prescribed that work together to combat the illness:

  • 'First Line' drugs that reduce swelling and pain.
  • 'Second Line' drugs that slow the disease and the destruction of joints.

Drugs can help to improve someone's quality of life
Drugs can help to improve someone's quality of life | Source

First line drugs for arthritis

These are fact-acting drugs that are designed to reduce inflammation and help to manage the pain that a patient is suffering from. Drugs normally prescribed for this type of treatment include cortisone and aspirin.

Second line drugs for arthritis

These drugs are used alongside the first line drugs to treat the longer-term impact of the disease. They do this by helping to prevent further joint destruction and slowing down the progress of the illness. These types of drugs are also known as 'disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs' (DMARDs). Typical second line drugs include methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall) and hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil).

Rheumatoid arthritis treatment

What have you found is the best way to treat rheumatoid arthritis?

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In closing

Any patient that suspects they may be developing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis should speak with their doctor immediately. Early diagnosis and treatment can significantly reduce the impact of the disease. A comprehensive care plan can help a patient manage the illness and continue to enjoy a good quality of life for as long as possible.

People with rheumatoid arthritis don't need to suffer in silence
People with rheumatoid arthritis don't need to suffer in silence | Source


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    Post Comment
    • Paul Maplesden profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Maplesden 

      4 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Heidi, thanks for the comment. I found it a very interesting topic to research.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 

      4 years ago from Chicago Area

      Can attest to the challenges of this condition. Managing as best as possible with exercise, rest and supplements should be a first choice in the hope of avoiding drug side effects. Voted up, useful and interesting.


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