Rheumatoid arthritis, characterized by chronic inflammation of the small joints of the limbs, is a type of autoimmune disorder. Prolonged joint inflammation leads to damage and deformity of the affected joints. The goal of rheumatoid arthritis joint inflammation treatment is to suppress the inflammatory activities of the immune systems.
Different types of medications are available for reducing inflammation. However, none of the drugs currently available can provide permanent relief from inflammation. When taken regularly according to your physician’s instruction they help to keep the inflammation under control, thereby reducing the risk of joint damage due to enhanced activities of inflammatory substances in the joints.
Treatment Options for Rheumatoid Arthritis Joint Inflammation
Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
NSAIDs are used as the first line treatment for rheumatoid arthritis joint inflammation. They work by countering the activities of the COX enzymes that trigger production of inflammatory prostaglandins. Mild to moderate inflammation of the joints can be treated with over-the-counter NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen.
Moderate to severe joint inflammation that does not respond to NSAIDs of standard strength can be reduced with prescription NSAIDs of higher strength. However, NSAIDs may not be suitable for long-term treatment. They may cause stomach irritation, tinnitus, liver disorder, impaired kidney function and heart problems.
Chronic joint inflammation can be reduced with corticosteroid drugs. These medications mimic the natural corticosteroid produced by the adrenal glands to suppress the immune system, providing prompt relief from inflammation. Corticosteroids can be taken orally or injected to the swollen joints.
Risk of side effects such as weight gain, elevated blood sugar level, cataracts and loss of bone mineral density can be minimized by taking steroid injections. Steroids are not used for long-term treatment. They are used for alleviating severe inflammation during an acute rheumatoid arthritis flare-up. The dosage of the drug is gradually reduced over time.
Disease Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs) or Immunsuppresive Drugs
DMARDs help to keep chronic inflammation under control, thereby reducing the risk of joint damage. These drugs work by suppressing the immune system. A number of DMARDs are available for treating rheumatoid arthritis joint inflammation. DMARDs commonly used include hydroxychloroquine, methotrexate, sulfasalazine and leflunomide. DMARDs are classified as oral DMARDs that are taken orally and biologic DMARDs that are administered through injection.
These drugs use different mechanisms for modifying the activities of the immune cell. DMARDs may be used as monotherapy or multiple oral drugs may be combined with each other or with a biologic DMARD. However, owing to higher risk of infection, combinations of biologic DMARDs are not used for treatment. In some cases, DMARDs can cause serious adverse reactions such as lung infections, liver damage and low white blood cell count.
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TNF-alpha inhibitor is a biologic drug used for reducing rheumatoid arthritis joint inflammation. It works by inhibiting the activities of the cytokine called tumor necrosis factor-alpha or TNF-alpha that triggers systemic inflammation. TNF-alpha inhibitors currently recommended for treating rheumatoid arthritis include infliximab, golimumab, natalizumab, adalimubab and etanercept. People on TNF-alpha inhibitor are susceptible to infections.
Natural Anti-Inflammatory Supplements
Gamma-linoleic acid (GLA), a natural anti-inflammatory fatty acid found in certain plant oils such as borage seed oil, evening primrose oil and black currant seed oil helps to treat rheumatoid arthritis joint inflammation. Fish oil and flaxseed oil supplements contain the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids that can reduce inflammation of the joints.