Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive disease that affects over two million Americans. Symptoms may include joint stiffness, muscle ache, and general discomfort. As a progressive disease, it is expected that most patients will experience a worsening of symptoms as time progress. Fortunately, there are many drug therapies available to patients that can help alleviate the patient’s symptoms considerably.
The primary goal of therapy consists of helping alleviate the symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis so that the patient can take part in all their normal activities with as little pain or discomfort as possible. Sometimes, the patient may have to learn to modify their activities in order to prevent damage or discomfort.
For the most part, however, individuals with rheumatoid arthritis can lead healthy lives. Drug therapies are prescribed according to each individual’s specific circumstances and symptoms. Many times, two or more drug therapies are used in conjunction with one another to achieve the best possible results.
Traditional drug therapies consist of anti-inflammatory drugs. These are often referred to as NSAIDs. NSAIDs are non-steroidal and are targeted at reducing mild to moderate symptoms associated with inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis. For more advanced cases of rheumatoid arthritis, doctors often prescribe a specific class of drugs, often referred to as DMARDs.
These are also known as disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, sometimes also referred to as glucocorticoids. DMARDs should ideally be prescribed at the early stages of treatment. Research has shown that DMARDs are most effective when indicated at the beginning of treatment. In fact, DMARD drugs tend to be avoided for advanced cases of rheumatoid arthritis because they have been shown to cause serious side effects. If prescribed early enough, DMARDs have been shown effective at relieving signs of joint damage.
The conventional approach to treating rheumatoid arthritis with drugs consists of prescribing DMARD drugs to the patients as early as possible after a positive diagnosis. Studies indicate that if a patient is treated approximately three to twelve moths after the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis have been first noticed the patient has a considerably greater chance of going into remission.
DMARD drugs are effective at fighting the inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis, and can slow the progress of the disease considerably when treatment is offered early enough. With their ability to ease the patient into remission, DMARD class drugs are generally regarded as the most effective treatment option for rheumatoid arthritis patients.
In general DMARDs can take up to two to three months to take maximum effect. DMARDs can be used in conjunction with other types of drug therapies. However, most patients find that the need for other anti-inflammatory drugs is greatly reduced or even eliminated.
Although DMARDs are not a magical solution that works for everyone, they have proven effective in helping millions of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers enter remission or at least experiencing a substantial lessening of symptoms. For most patients, DMARDs are prescribed on a long-term basis. This is true of most drug therapies that are currently available to rheumatoid arthritis patients.