Most Symptoms Are Treatable
Treatments for rheumatoid arthritis can help relieve your pain, reduce swelling, slow down or help prevent joint damage, increase your ability to function, and improve your sense of well-being.
Exercise and Stress Reduction
Exercise, medication, and, in some cases, surgery are common treatments for rheumatoid arthritis.
People with rheumatoid arthritis need a good balance between rest and exercise; they should rest more when the disease is active and exercise more when it is not.
Reducing stress also is important. Doing relaxation exercises and taking part in support groups are two ways to help reduce stress. For more information on exercise classes, you may want to contact the Arthritis Foundation at 1-800-283-7800.
Most people who have rheumatoid arthritis take medications. Some drugs only provide relief for pain; others reduce inflammation. Still others, called disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs or DMARDs, can often slow the course of the disease.
- DMARDs include methotrexate, leflunomide, sulfasalazine, and cyclosporine.
- Steroids, which are also called corticosteroids, are another type of drug used to reduce inflammation for people with rheumatoid arthritis. Cortisone, hydrocortisone, and prednisone are some commonly used steroids.
- New types of drugs called biologic response modifiers also can help reduce joint damage. These drugs include etanercept, infliximab, anakinra, golimumab, adalimumab, rituximab, and abatacept.
Early treatment with powerful drugs and drug combinations -- including biologic response modifiers and DMARDs -- instead of single drugs may help prevent the disease from progressing and greatly reduce joint damage.
In some cases, a doctor will recommend surgery to restore function or relieve pain in a damaged joint. Surgery may also improve a person's ability to perform daily activities. Joint replacement and tendon reconstruction are two types of surgery available to patients with severe joint damage.
Special diets, vitamin supplements, and other alternative approaches have been suggested for treating rheumatoid arthritis. Although such approaches may not be harmful, scientific studies have not yet shown any benefits.
An overall nutritious diet with the right amount of calories, protein, and calcium is important. Some people need to be careful about drinking alcoholic beverages because of the medications they take for rheumatoid arthritis.
Scientists are making rapid progress in understanding the complexities of rheumatoid arthritis. They are learning more about how and why it develops and why some people have more severe symptoms than others.