Can Arthritis be treated via medication?
It should first be pointed out that arthritis is not a single disease, but includes a wide range of inflammatory joint conditions that cause stiffness and pain. In fact, there are over a hundred different types of arthritic disease, from rheumatoid arthritis to osteoarthritis.
Each condition has its own causes, including wear and tear of the joints, infections, and other underlying conditions. The symptoms of pain, swelling, reduced mobility and stiffness are fairly universal to all types of arthritis, however, making arthritis so hard to live with. The primary goals of treatment are therefore to control pain and relieve symptoms, while also limiting damage to the joints and slowing disease progression. While there are many facets of treatment, medication is often critical.
Although arthritis is never treated exclusively with medication, medication is an important part of treatment, along with joint injections, physical therapy, and other lifestyle changes. As arthritis is not a single disease, the type of medications administered can also vary greatly. Here are some of the most commonly used arthritis medications.
Common Medications to Treat Arthritis
- Pain medication
An over-the-counter option includes acetaminophen (Tylenol, others).
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs reduce both pain and inflammation.
Some varieties of creams and ointments contain menthol or capsaicin, the ingredient that makes hot peppers spicy. Rubbing these preparations on the skin over your aching joint may interfere with the transmission of pain signals from the joint itself.
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
It is often used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, DMARDs slow or stop your immune system from attacking your joints. Examples include methotrexate and hydroxychloroquine.
- Biologic response modifiers
Typically used in conjunction with DMARDs. Examples include etanercept and infliximab.
This class of drugs, which includes prednisone and cortisone, reduces inflammation and suppresses the immune system. Corticosteroids can be taken orally or can be injected directly into the painful joint.
- Hyaluronic Acid or Hyaluronate Injections
It also called Visco supplements, this treatment tries to restore synovial fluid, which is a slippery substance that helps lubricate joints.
- Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Injections
- Mesenchymal stem cell thearpy
Other medications that are used to fight arthritis include Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs (DMARDs) and Biologic Response Modifiers (Biologics). DMARDs include drugs like methotrexate and hydroxychloroquine, which can restrict or prevent the immune system from attacking the joints. Biologic response modifiers are often used in combination with DMARDs and are highly targeted genetically engineered drugs.
Counterirritants – Some varieties of creams and ointments contain menthol or capsaicin, the ingredient that makes hot peppers spicy. Rubbing these preparations on the skin over your aching joint may interfere with the transmission of pain signals from the joint itself. Hyaluronic Acid or Hyaluronate Injections – Also called viscosupplements, this treatment tries to restore synovial fluid, which is a viscous substance that helps lubricate the joints.
- Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Injections – Commonly described as PRP therapy, this treatment exploits natural healing properties of blood plasma to repair damage to the joint cartilage, ligaments, or bones.
- Mesenchymal stem cell therapy – This is still an experimental treatment, but it has shown promise in pre-clinical models and can help resurface degenerated cartilage, reducing pain and facilitating healing.
Keep in mind that effective arthritis management requires a multi-faceted approach and is not treated solely with medication. Moreover, self-medication should be avoided as it could expose you to side effects, without providing the desired benefits.
Dr V V Satyanarayana E
MS Ortho, M.Ch Trauma (UK), AO Fellow Trauma & Arthroplasty (Greece)
Consultant - Orthopaedic & Arthroplasty Surgeon
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