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Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatments

Rheumatologist discusses rheumatoid arthritis treatments with a patient Although there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), there are a variety of available drugs that mask the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. Additionally, there are numerous physical and occupational therapies, home remedies, weight loss plans, relaxation techniques and medical surgeries that can be used as effective rheumatoid arthritis treatments.

Be sure that you talk to your rheumatologist before using any new form of RA treatment.

(If you have been diagnosed with RA, you may qualify for our rheumatoid arthritis clinical trial in Birmingham, Alabama.)

Common Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatments:

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs are used to reduce pain and inflammation. Mild forms of NSAIDs include ibuprofin (advil and motrin) and naproxen (aleve), and there are stronger forms available by prescription.

Please note that NSAIDs do not prevent joint damage. Nor do they inhibit or slow the worsening condition of your rheumatic condition. This rheumatoid arthritis treatment begins working a few days after it has begun.

Side effects of NSAIDs include:

  • Gastrointestinal irritation
  • Ulcers
  • Burning sensation
  • Bleeding
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Liver damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Edema
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Heightened risk of cardiovascular disease


These rheumatoid arthritis treatments reduce pain and inflammation and also slow the progression of joint damage. Corticosteroid drugs include prednisone, Medrol and methylprenisolone. These rheumatoid arthritis treatments can be administered in several ways, including:

  • Orally
  • Intramuscularly
  • Intravenously (into the affected joint)

Corticosteroids have a short commencement of treatment. Side effects include:

  • Weight gain
  • Increased blood sugar
  • Cataracts
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Thinning of the bones
  • Redness in the cheeks
  • Widened neck
  • Accelerated osteoporosis


Immunosuppressants control the immune system by suppressing its self-inflicting harmful course of action. Common varieties of immunosuppressants include:

  • Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan)
  • Azathioprine (Azasan and Imuran)
  • Cyclosporine (Neoral, Gengraf and Sandimmune)

The primary side effect of these drugs is susceptibility to infection. Other side effects include itching, harsh abdominal pain and flu-like symptoms such as headache, sore throat and runny nose.

Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)

Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis and limit the damage it inflicts upon the tissues and joints. Common varieties of DMARDs include:

  • Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil)
  • Minocycline (Dynacin and Minocin)
  • Golimumab (Simponi)
  • Methotrexate (Trexall)
  • Tocilizumab (Actemra)
  • Etanercept (Enbrel)
  • Infliximab (Remicade)
  • Certolizumab pegol (Cimzia)
  • Abatacept (Orencia)
  • Adalimumab (Humira)
  • Anakinra (Kineret)
  • Rituximab (Rituxan)
  • Sulfasalazine (Azulfidine)

DMARDs may take a few weeks for the treatment to take effect. Side effects of DMARDs include lung infections, liver damage and inhibition of bone marrow.

Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF)-Alpha Inhibitors

These rheumatoid arthritis treatments reduce pain, joint tenderness, morning stiffness and joint swelling. Common varieties of TNF-alpha inhibitors include:

  • Golimumab (Simponi)
  • Etanercept (Enbrel)
  • Certolizumab (Cimzia)
  • Adalimumab (Humira)

Side effects include increased risk of specific cancers, heart failure and lethal bodily infections.

Analgesic Drugs (Chronic Narcotic Therapies)

These rheumatoid arthritis treatments are an option for patients with severe pain and advanced joint destruction. Analgesic drugs are prescribed to patients who are not candidates for surgical treatment. These drugs do not offer anti-inflammation treatment, nor do they slow the progression of the disease. Such treatment is not commonly applied.

Side effects include impaired mental status, addiction and constipation.

Additional Ways to Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis

Surgery may be performed to replace joints, insert prosthesis, perform joint fusion and repair joint-surrounding tendons impaired by RA.

Pain Management and de-stressing are useful tools in dealing with hurting joints. Studies show that stress contributes to autoimmune disease, and stress reduction correlates with healing and pain management. Hypnosis and breathing exercises may also help in dealing with pain.

Weight loss can be accomplished by diet, exercise and surgery. Losing weight provides less strain for the joints as less fat presses and weighs upon the already painful joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis is painful, but it is manageable. Talk with your doctor to plan the appropriate course of remedial action for your case of RA. Together, you and your rheumatologist can select the best combination of available rheumatoid arthritis treatments.