Rheumatoid Arthritis

Essential Facts About Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis, sometimes referred to as inflammatory arthritis, is a condition that results in abnormal swelling of the joints, which can lead to bone deterioration and deformed, painful joints.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Characteristics

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, which occurs when the body attacks its own connective tissues. The person’s immune system mistakenly perceives these tissues as an enemy, rather than a vital part of the skeletal system. When this joint tissue attack occurs, it results in a flare up of rheumatism, hence the name rheumatoid arthritis. Symptoms include swollen joints, chronic fatigue, an elevated temperature and decreased function of internal organs. Sufferers often experience decreased range of motion and loss of flexibility, as well.

Statistics

Rheumatoid arthritis is the second most common type of arthritis and approximately 15 million Americans suffer from the disease. Sixty-five percent more women than men are afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis and the disorder is typically diagnosed in patients between 40 and 60 years of age.

Treatment

The medical community has yet to find a cure for this autoimmune disease, but medications are available to significantly reduce pain, swelling and other symptoms of the disease.

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Medications

One of the most widely prescribed medications for rheumatoid arthritis is NSAIDS–Non steroidal anti-inflammatory Drugs. NSAIDs work by reducing inflammation, which in turn alleviates pain. These types of medicines are available by prescription as well as over-the-counter. NSAIDs that do not require a prescription include ibuprofen, which is sold under the brand names Advil and Motrin. Naproxen sodium is also a nonprescription NSAID and is sold under the brand name Alleve. Stronger varieties of these medications are available by prescription. These include drugs such as Relafen, Nambumetone and Oxyprozin–not to be confused with Oxycontin, which is a narcotic analgesic.

Disease-modifying Antirheumatic drugs–DMARDS

DMARDS retard the progression of rheumatoid arthritis and substantially help to preserve joints and connective tissues from permanent deformity. Methotrexate is a commonly prescribed DMARD and is sold under the brand names Trexall or Rheumatrex. Other drugs include Plaquenil, Arava, and Minocin.

Steroids

Corticosteroids including prednisone and Medrol alleviate symptoms by repressing the immune system, but side effects can be decidedly unpleasant. Additionally, they can affect internal organs in a negative way. Therefore, physicians routinely prescribe steroids to temporarily treat severe symptoms, but most try to avoid long-term use of this drug.

TNF-Alpha Inhibitors

TNF-alpha is a natural substance found in the human body with inflammatory propeties. TNF-alpha inhibitors are made to reduce the activity of TNF-alpha in the body and subsequently reduce pain and swelling in the joints. Enbrel, Remicade and adalimumab are types of this drug and are usually given by injection.