Arthritis is a medical condition characterized by inflammation and stiff joints. Affecting millions of people worldwide, arthritis causes long-term pain and swelling of the knees, elbows and other joints. Many arthritis sufferers rely on anti-inflammatory drugs and pain relievers to manage their condition. Others treat the disease more aggressively with arthritis injections. There are several treatments available as injections or intravenous (IV) regimes — such as corticosteroids, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs and tumor necrosis factor inhibitors — that can help patients live active and pain-free lives.
Cortisone injections are corticosteroids used to relieve inflammation in joints and other parts of the body. Often used with osteoarthritis patients and athletes with inflammation, cortisone shots can be injected directly into the joint for immediate relief from pain and swelling. These arthritis injections provide short-term relief but may weaken the tendons and cartilage in a joint over time. These injections are helpful for arthritis patients seeking temporary relief to help them through a vacation or a big event such as a wedding. Cortisone is also used to provide relief until other treatments take effect.
Hylan G-F 20 is another type of medication injected directly into the joint to relieve pain and swelling. This drug is prescribed specifically for osteoarthritis in the knee. Hylan G-F 20 is typically administered in a series of three injections, each given a week apart. It may take a few months after treatment for patients to experience the most relief from this arthritis injection.
Patients diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are often first prescribed treatments known as disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). These drugs help prevent the long-term damage that results from RA. DMARDs such as methotrexate are typically given by injection to avoid side effects and allow the drug to be better absorbed. Most RA patients prescribed methotrexate take it once a week. These arthritis injections can be administered in a doctor’s office or at home.
Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors are another category of drugs given to RA suffers to help relieve swelling and other symptoms of RA. The proteins in these drugs cannot be administered orally, so they must be given by injection or IV. Several of these drugs have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in the U.S.
Inflixmab is a TNF given to RA patients who do not respond to methotrexate, though the drugs also can be given together. Inflixmab is usually administered by IV in a doctor’s office once every eight weeks. These arthritis injections are expensive and can have severe side effects. Adalimumab is another TNF taken to relieve the symptoms of RA. Generally, it is injected once a week or every other week if given in combination with methotrexate.