Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatments

Is there a cure for RA?

There is no known cure for RA. Spontaneous and complete remissions are rare. RA can also be confused with Reactive arthritis or Lyme disease, which may be more easily resolved.

Recent research indicates that early treatment may be more effective and more likely to produce clinical remission. Of course, early treatment is dependent upon two things:

  • Getting an early RA diagnosis
  • Finding a doctor who with an aggressive treatment philosophy

How is Rheumatoid Arthritis treated?

Treatment for RA varies by practitioner. Some doctors use a “step up” approach; they begin with treating symptoms using anti-inflammatories or pain killers and step up to disease therapy when they believe it’s necessary. Other doctors begin treating aggressively with drugs meant to slow the progression of the disease.

Disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are those which have been shown to lessen immune activity. In most patients, DMARDs moderate RA symptoms. Many patients require a combination of DMARDs to improve symptoms.

Biologics are a class of drugs which were designed specifically to treat diseases like RA by interfering with specific parts of the immune system. Studies show that a combination of DMARDs and Biologics can slow the progression of the disease in some patients.

How can I find the right Rheumatoid Arthritis treatment?

Finding a treatment that works for RA is a matter of trial and error. Treatment combinations which work for one patient may not work for others. It is important for doctors and patients to communicate well about whether treatments need to be changed or doses need to be increased.

Even when treatments are effective, they often stop working after a period of months or years. Old symptoms worsen or return or new symptoms develop. Communication between doctor and patient is essential to attempt to regain control of the disease.

What about side effects?

Side effects are real, but for most people with RA, the damaging effects of the disease outweigh them. Some people experience mild side effects. Others cannot tolerate certain treatments because the side effects are too harsh. The obvious goal is to find the balance of a treatment that helps suppress RA activity with side effects that are tolerable.

Many side effects can be moderated in a variety of ways. Medications can be taken with food or at different times of day. Supplements such as folic acid can be increased. Sometimes medications are used to moderate side effects such as anti-nausea remedies or stomach acid suppressants.