Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatments

Specific treatment for rheumatoid arthritis will be determined by your physician based on:

  • Your age, overall health and medical history
  • The extent of the condition
  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the condition
  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • Medications: Some medications may be used for pain relief, other medications will be used to treat inflammation, and finally some medications will be used to slow the disease from progressing. Depending on your symptoms and preferences, your physician may treat you with one or more of the following treatments:
    • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications to relieve symptoms
    • Vitamins and minerals, such as calcium and vitamin D, to slow bone deformation
    • Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), such as methotrexate, to suppress inflammation if NSAIDs are not effective
    • Biologic medications, such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors
    • Corticosteroids for inflammation
  • Splints: Splints may be used to help protect and strengthen weak joints.
  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy may be used to help increase the strength and movement of the affected areas.
  • Surgery: Surgery may be performed if the above treatment options fail. The decision for surgery should be made in consultation with your physician. Repair or reconstruction of damaged joints can be performed in a variety of ways, including:
    • Joint replacement: This type of surgery, also called arthroplasty, may be used in cases of severe arthritis. Joint replacement may provide a decrease in pain and an increase in function. This involves replacing a joint that has been destroyed by the disease process with an artificial joint.
      • Joint fusion: This option usually involves removing the joint and fusing together two ends of bones. This makes one large bone without a joint. This option is usually used on patients with advanced arthritis. After the fusion of the bone, there is an elimination of the painful movement in the fused joint.
It is important to remember that surgery does not correct the underlying disease, it only helps correct the deformities caused by the disease. Rheumatoid arthritis can continue to cause problems, and may even require additional surgery. Close follow-up with your physician is required for optimal control of this disease.