Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a condition that causes the lining of the joints to become inflamed, most often in the smaller joints of the hands and feet. The swelling can cause pain, stiffness, and difficulty performing a variety of tasks. There is no cure for this autoimmune disease, but treatments are available to reduce rheumatoid arthritis inflammation and help to restore joint function. There are a number of medications that can help reduce joint swelling. If medications are ineffective or can't be taken for some reason, other treatments such as rest or immobilization, moderate exercise, and occupational therapy can help to reduce or avoid flare ups. In a somewhat limited number of cases, joint replacement or other surgery can help to alleviate rheumatoid arthritis inflammation.
Many rheumatoid arthritis medications can have significant side effects, so patients may want to try the ones with the fewest side effects first. In some cases, a combination of drugs is used to treat the disease. Some of the most common medications for rheumatoid arthritis inflammation are over-the-counter pain relievers. Corticosteroids such as prednisone can also reduce swelling quickly, and patients will usually only take them during an acute attack. A variety of other medications may help to treat rheumatoid arthritis by blocking the body's production of the substances that cause inflammation. New and experimental medications are being developed that can improve the prognosis for a person with rheumatoid arthritis.
While drugs can help to reduce rheumatoid arthritis inflammation, some people may not be able to take them. For example, most medications have not been proved safe for pregnant women. In these cases, other treatments may be helpful. Rheumatoid arthritis sufferers can learn different ways to perform everyday tasks through occupational therapy, thus reducing stress on the joints. Another way to reduce rheumatoid arthritis inflammation is by resting and keeping the affected joints immobile when possible. Moderate exercise may be helpful at other times when the condition is not causing acute pain.
Sometimes the inflammation does not respond to other types of treatment because the disease has progressed too far. In these cases, surgery may be recommended. One procedure involves removing the lining of the joint, which is the part that becomes swollen. Joint replacement surgery removes the damaged areas and uses plastic or metal pieces to reconstruct the joint. If a replacement is not an option, the joint may be fused to immobilize it and eliminate further inflammation and damage.