Rheumatoid arthritis is a lifelong autoimmune disease that has the immune system of the body attacking its own tissues. The joints of the hands and wrists are some of the main targets of rheumatoid arthritis with characterized stiffness, pain, swelling and warmness. Other parts of the body that can be affected are knees, feet, elbows, ankles, hips, shoulders and jaws.
Though the main mechanisms behind the causes of rheumatoid arthritis are not fully understood yet, emotional trauma in individuals with family history of the condition, injury to the tissues of the body and infections have all been proven to be capable of causing this debilitating condition. Some of the common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are swelling of glands, redness and paleness of skin, inflammation of the skin, loss of appetite, fever, tingling sensations, itching and burning sensations in the eyes, restricted movement of the affected parts, nodules under the skin, lung inflammation and deformities of the affected parts.
There are different forms of rheumatoid arthritis treatment targeted at helping people with the disease. However, it should be noted that the condition is incurable; hence, every treatment of rheumatoid arthritis is either meant to relieve the symptoms of the condition and its long term effects or reduce further damage to the affected parts.
Notably, there is no rheumatoid arthritis treatment that has no side effects, but some have more severe side effects than others. Out of all known treatments of rheumatoid arthritis, the use of disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) has the least side effects. Use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), biological agents, corticosteroids and surgery are the other types of treatments of rheumatoid arthritis that have been scientifically proven as being capable of managing the condition.
Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) slow down the rate of progression of rheumatoid arthritis and prevent further damage to the affected joints and other tissues. When the immune system of the body attacks its own tissues, there are certain tissue-damaging chemicals that will be released. DMARDs work by suppressing these chemicals from having any effects on the attacked tissues.
These medications can be taken via oral means, subcutaneous injections and intravenous infusions. Though DMARDs are very potent in reducing the effects of rheumatoid arthritis, they are slow-acting medications and it may take several weeks before their full effects will be felt by the affected person. Common examples of DMARDs are methotrexate, leflunomide, hydroxychloroquine and sulfasalazine.
Like other kinds of rheumatoid arthritis treatment, DMARDs have side effects such as loss of appetite, stomach upset, headaches, sore mouth, hair loss and increased susceptibility to infections. While these side effects may look severe at the first glance, they are not as severe as those of other treatments. Some of the side effects of corticosteroids are elevated blood pressure, increased risks of diabetes, leg swelling, weight gain, increased susceptibility to infections, weakened bones, psychosis and cataract. The side effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs include heart problems, liver damage, kidney damage and stomach infections.
If combined with exercises and used at the early stage of the condition, DMARDs have the potential to inhibit the progression of rheumatoid arthritis and improve the wellness of the affected person.