Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis

Written by Amy Pusey (last updated April 27, 2009)

Over 2.1 million people in the United States are affected by Rheumatoid Arthritis. While doctors do not know the exact cause of this joint disease, their medical research suggests it is actually an autoimmune disorder. Furthermore, it is believed that the majority of sufferers have a genetic or inherited pre-disposition that caused them to develop it.

At this point, you may be thinking about your own achy joints—the knees, shoulders, or hands—and wondering, "What are the actual symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis, and could my pains be caused by it?" Let us take a closer look at them to find out:

  • Inflammation and swelling of the joints and immediate area
  • Throbbing or sharp pain in the hands, and generally the knuckles, as well as other smaller joint areas, including the knees, feet, wrists, and elbows
  • General tiredness and mild-to-moderate insomnia
  • Presence of a fever, either persistent or occasional
  • Experiencing a lost of appetite and/or weight

It is important to note that when left untreated, Rheumatoid Arthritis may potentially affect or damage other areas of the body, such as the eyes, lungs, and nerve-endings. However, early diagnosis and treatment relieves most patients of their symptoms, and greatly reduces the risk of permanent damage in approximately 90%-95% of sufferers.

The treatment prescribed for an individual's Rheumatoid Arthritis will depend on severity. Currently, there are eight types of medication used in treatment. Some of the more recognizable medications include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Used to reduce pain and inflammation, these are over-the-counter products, including ibuprofen (i.e., Advil and Motrin,) naproxen sodium (i.e., Aleve.) Stronger products are available, but only by prescription from your doctor.
  • Steroids. In addition to relieving pain and reducing inflammation, these drugs also slow joint damage. This type of medication may lose its effect when used for prolonged periods of time.
  • Immunosuppressants. These medications are administered to regain control of the immune system, which is important for rheumatoid patients. Some drugs in this category are used to destroy cells that cause the disease.

For individuals who no longer reap the benefits of medication-only treatment, or have developed damage to joints or deformities, there are also surgical procedures that may be a viable option. Rheumatoid Arthritis surgery may include one of the following procedures:

  • Total joint replacement (arthroplasty). In this procedure, the damaged pieces are replaced with metal and plastic prosthesis.
  • Tendon repair. Doctor will surgically repair or tighten tendons that have been loosened by constant inflammation associated with the disease.
  • Removal of the joint lining (synovectomy). During this process, the doctor may remove the actual joint lining if severely inflamed and causing extensive pain.

Prevention is the best medicine, so if you can relate to the symptoms associated with Rheumatoid Arthritis; visit your physician for a formal evaluation. In addition, if you are currently under doctor's care for the disease and your treatment is not helping, discuss the situation with your physician to determine the next step in your course of treatment.

Author Bio

Amy Pusey

With over 18 years experience in operations and human-resource management, Amy Pusey uses her skills in her consulting and freelance writing activities. She is a freelance writer for, as well as a resume writer for ...


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