Arthritis is a chronic joint condition that can cause the loss of mobility and a reduced quality of life without proper treatment. The condition is diagnosed when cartilage within a joint degenerates, resulting in friction during movement. Fortunately, advancements in medicine have paved the way for various successful arthritis treatment options, with some of the most successful treatments being NSAIDs, Analgesics, Corticosteroids, DMARDs and Biologics. People who get diagnosed and treated early generally have better prognoses than those who wait to get treated. Only a doctor can diagnose arthritis, and over-the-counter medications generally aren’t sufficient as a standalone long-term treatment option. Read on to learn more about today’s top treatments for arthritis.
Top 5 Treatment Options for Arthritis:
NSAIDs relieve inflammation
NSAID stands for non-steroidal inflammatory drug. These consist of a large group of drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen. They function by reducing inflammation, pain, and fever, which means that have several uses across a wide variety of conditions. NSAIDs function by blocking enzymes knows as cyclooxygenases. This prevents the enzyme from producing prostaglandins, which lead to inflammation, pain, and fever. This makes NSAIDs useful in reducing the pain caused by the inflammation in arthritis.
- NSAIDs block cyclooxygenase
- This prevents the production of prostaglandins
- This reduces pain and inflammation
Analgesics reduce pain
Analgesics are used in a wide variety of conditions because by definition they are used to treat pain. This can include everything from over the counter medicines such as Tylenol to stronger prescription pain medicines such as Mobic or even opioid medications such as Vicodin. Some pain medications such as Tramadol are in a class by themselves. Ultimately, what every patient with arthritis wants is pain relief. Analgesics are a good place to start. Most patients should start with non-opioid pain relievers and build up because the stronger medicines have dangerous side effects.
- Analgesics relieve pain
- Start with weaker medicines and build up
- Stronger medicines carry serious risks with overdose
Corticosteroids reduce inflammation
The pain from arthritis is generated due to inflammation when bony surfaces rub against each other. By reducing the inflammation, the pain from arthritis will improve and start to abate. Corticosteroids are drugs that, by definition, reduce inflammation. These corticosteroids function by working on the immune system and the adrenal gland to reduce inflammatory signals called cytokines such as Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha, interferon, and prostaglandins. While reducing the inflammation from arthritis will bring pain relief, corticosteroids come with undesirable side effects when taken for long periods of time. These side effects include weight gain, acne, and increased risk of diabetes.
- Corticosteroids relieve inflammation
- Corticosteroids can’t be administered repeatedly as long-term solutions
- Corticosteroids come with side effects when taken for long periods of time
DMARDs alter the course of arthritis
DMARD stands for disease modifying anti-rheumatic drug. They are prescribed specifically for types of arthritis due primarily to inflammation (for example, rheumatoid arthritis). These drugs are not to be prescribed for acute flares or quick control. This is a newer drug class that takes time to work. The time scale for these drugs helping is on the order of weeks to months; however, this is one of the few drugs out there that treats the underlying cause of arthritis and reduces the long term effects of arthritis, such as joint damage. The most commonly prescribed DMARD is Methotrexate. This is an older drug that acts on the enzyme that produces the cytokines responsible for joint damage. Another commonly prescribed agent is Plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine).
- DMARDs treat the underlying cause
- They prevent long term joint damage
- They come with serious side effects that require regular monitoring
Biologics target inflammatory proteins
Biologics are drugs on the market and are thus named because they are derived from other living organisms to generate a response. Biologics are drugs that are engineered from the proteins of humans or other species that have been used to target a specific cell line or protein that causes the symptoms of arthrits. They act to reduce inflammation and pain, similar to other drugs. They are also slower working drugs, but many are administered by self-injection.
- Biologics are engineered from living organisms
- They are newer and slower working
- They work to reduce the inflammation of arthritis
Arthritis is a serious health condition that affects millions of men and women in the United States. Failure to get the proper treatment for arthritis can result in a diminished quality of life and even permanent joint complications. Fortunately, there are numerous treatment options to help people with arthritis retain their independence and continue doing the things that make them happy.