HEALTH ENCYCLOPEDIA

Diseases & Conditions A - Z
powered by Talix

Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatments

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the tissue that lines the inside of your joints. It’s a chronic progressive disease that can be quite painful, and even debilitating. It especially affects fingers, wrists, ankles, and feet.

Currently, there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment focuses on reducing symptoms, maintaining joint function, and slowing progression of the disease.

Rest and Exercise

With RA, keeping your muscles healthy and strong can help maintain flexibility and mobility. During flare-ups, resting your muscles helps reduce inflammation and pain. A careful balance of rest and exercise should reduce your RA symptoms overall. Rest more when symptoms are worse, and exercise more when they lessen.

Physical and Occupational Therapy

A physical or occupational therapist will observe your specific problems and symptoms. Then they’ll offer ways to reduce your pain and swelling and to improve your quality of life. They may suggest wearing a splint to support painful joints. Or they may recommend using self-help devices to make daily tasks easier and less painful. These self-help devices include:

  • grabbers
  • long-handled shoehorns
  • extra-depth shoes with semi-rigid soles
  • raised toilet seats

Drugs and Medication

Drug therapy is almost always the first line of treatment used for RA. There are four major categories of RA drugs:

  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which reduce pain and inflammation in the long-term
  • corticosteroids, which reduce severe pain and inflammation in the short-term
  • disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), which slow the progression of RA in various ways
  • biologic agents (e.g., Humira, Enbrel), which interrupt your body's inflammation process

Surgery

Surgery is generally a last-resort treatment for RA. It’s used if your joints become severely damaged or if drug therapy stops working. There are several different types of surgery used in RA:

Total Joint Replacement, or Arthroplasty

In this type of surgery, the damaged parts of your joints are removed completely and replaced with prosthetics made of metal or plastic. Arthroplasty is a long-term solution. However, many joints, such as those in the wrists and hands, can be complex and costly to replace.

Tendon Repair/Reconstruction

Tendons are strands of tissue that connect muscles to bones, enabling movement. RA can damage tendons and even cause them to rupture. This type of surgery, most commonly used on hands, reattaches and repairs damaged tendons. This restores movement and function.

Synovectomy

This type of surgery removes inflamed synovial tissue. This tissue forms the membranes surrounding the inflamed joints responsible for RA. Removing this reduces pain and swelling. However, it’s impossible to remove all synovial tissue, and it will also grow back after surgery. So synovectomy is a temporary solution at best. It’s rarely done by itself and can be combined with tendon reconstruction and arthroscopy.

Joint Fusion, or Arthrodesis

If total joint replacement is not an option, your doctor may choose joint fusion. This type of surgery removes a damaged joint and fuses the affected bones together, often using bone grafts taken from your pelvis. Joint fusion limits movement but reduces pain and stops further bone damage. It’s commonly used on wrists, ankles, fingers, toes, thumbs, or hips.

Outlook

Although there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, it’s possible to reduce its symptoms, manage your pain and restore your joint function. Physical therapy, medication, and surgery as a last resort can help you live a pain-free life.


Content licensed from:

Written by: the Healthline Editorial Team
Published on: Jul 29, 2010on: Feb 29, 2016

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your health care provider. Please consult a health care professional with any health concerns you may have.
health
TOOLS
Symptom Search
Enter your symptoms in our Symptom Checker to find out possible causes of your symptoms. Go.
Drug Interaction Checker
Enter any list of prescription drugs and see how they interact with each other and with other substances. Go.
Pill Identifier
Enter its color and shape information, and this tool helps you identify it. Go.
Drugs A-Z
Find information on drug interactions, side effects, and more. Go.
Advertisement

 

 

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Member Benefits AT&T Wireless Cell Phone

Members save 10% on the monthly service charge of qualified AT&T wireless plans.

Member Benefit AARP Regal 2

Members pay $9.50 for Regal ePremiere Tickets purchased online.

Walgreens 1 discount membership aarp

Members earn points on select Walgreens-brand health and wellness products.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Advertisement