Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis isn’t just about achy, painful joints. It can also affect other parts of the body. In severe cases, rheumatoid arthritis can cause dangerous heart (pericarditis), lung (pleurisy), and eye (scleritis) inflammation. People should be treated early to prevent serious inflammations in other parts of the body. Rheumatoid arthritis can occur at any age. About 75 percent of sufferers are women, which suggest that hormones may play a part in the disease. Some believe that a viral or bacteria infection may also cause the disease. Smoking and stress contributes to it but doesn’t cause rheumatoid arthritis.

Some new treatments available for rheumatoid arthritis are becoming available for sufferers. Rheumatoid arthritis almost always requires medication. Sufferers should seek treatment from a medical doctor who specializes in the treatment of diseases in the joints and muscles. Rheumatologists prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen (Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve). Nonbiological DMARDS are synthetic and biological DMARDS resemble substances that are naturally present in the body. Both medications are prescribed to reduce the pain and inflammation and slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis.

Nonbiological DMARDS
Rheumatrex – suppresses the immune system and minimizes joint destruction. Most patients who take the drug experience reduced pain and joint swelling in weeks. Potential side effects include nausea, diarrhea and, in rare cases, liver scarring and inflammation. Periodic checks for liver problems are required.

Plaquenil – Is an antimalarial drug that suppresses immune attacks on the joints. The drug is often used along with Rheumatrex for best results. Potential side effects include nausea, decreased appetite, and, in rare cases, retinopathy, a disorder of the retina resulting in impaired vision. Regular eye exams are required.

Azulfidine – This medication is often used in mild rheumatoid arthritis cases or in combination with other drugs for severe symptoms. Possible side effects include upset stomach, headaches, and, in some cases, a decrease in disease fighting white blood cells. Regular blood tests are required to monitor blood counts.

Biological DMARDS
Most rheumatoid arthritis patients who take these drugs improve in a shorter amount of time and some mention a complete remission. The agents inhibit or block a cell protein that produces inflammation. These drugs may increase the risk of infection in expose patients to tuberculosis. A TB skin test is required. The main negative is that these drugs are quite expensive.

Enbrel – Injected once or twice weekly.
Humira – Injected once everyone or two weeks.
Remicade – Taken in combination with other drugs it is given by an IV by a doctor once every eight weeks.

A couple of newer drugs that are prescribed to assist those with rheumatoid arthritis who don’t respond to the DMARDS are Orencia, which inhibits the activity of the T-cells, the immune cells that play a major role in joint inflammation. And Rituxan, used to treat lymphoma, this drug reduces circulatory B-cells, which plays a part in developing rheumatoid arthritis. This drug is taken by IV in a doctor’s office every few months. Like the DMARDS, these drugs can also increase the risk of infections.

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