8 Types of RA Treatment

  • Doctor and patient talking in office
    The Components of RA Treatment
    The key to treating rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is slowing disease progression and preventing joint damage. Even if your RA is mild, the sooner you start treatment, the better. Working with a rheumatologist will allow you to find the best treatment for your RA.

  • Pain Killer Pills or Tablets
    1. Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Agents (NSAIDs)
    Doctors use NSAIDS to help relieve RA symptoms. Examples include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve), as well as prescription drugs, such as COX-2 inhibitors. You can take these drugs in combination with other drugs that reduce disease activity.


  • Girl makes salad with grandma
    2. Lifestyle Changes
    Lifestyle changes, like eating healthy foods, losing extra pounds that put stress on your joints, and exercising regularly to keep joints flexible and mobile, can also help alleviate joint pain and reduce symptoms.

  • Pills in hand
    3. Corticosteroids
    Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, are powerful anti-inflammatory prescription medicines that relieve severe symptoms. You can take them as pills, or your doctor might inject them into your joint. Either way, you'll want to take the lowest dose needed because the side effects of these drugs can be serious.

  • Pill pack
    4. Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs (DMARDs)
    DMARDs slow the progression of RA and help relieve symptoms in the process. Doctors often prescribe the DMARD methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall), but there are others in this class. It can take about six weeks to see results with DMARDs. Therefore, your doctor might have you continue taking NSAIDs while you’re waiting to see improvement.

  • Doctor Writing Medical Prescription
    5. A Higher Dosage, Another Medicine
    If you don’t see symptom improvement–or not enough improvement–your doctor can increase your current DMARD dosage or try another DMARD. Another option is to add a low-dose corticosteroid or a second DMARD. Keep in mind that you may need to try different combinations before finding the one that's right for you.

  • Nurse prepares syringe for an injection
    6. Biologic Response Modifiers
    If your RA is not responding to traditional DMARDs, your doctor might suggest a biologic drug. These drugs block specific steps in the immune system process, slow disease progression, and can even put RA into remission. However, they can increase your risk for infections because they suppress the immune system. Doctors can prescribe biologics alone or in combination with a traditional DMARD, such as methotrexate.


  • Explaining the dosage and effects - Senior Care
    7. Trying Different Drugs
    You may need to try different drugs, different combinations of drugs, or different dosages to find the best treatment for you. And with new drugs on the market, including new oral treatments, you have more options than ever. While a trial-and-error approach can be frustrating, with patience you and your doctor should find a regimen that helps.

  • Surgery
    8. An Advanced Option: Surgery
    If your joint damage is severe and medication and physical therapy aren’t helping, you may benefit from joint replacement surgery. Hips and knees are common joints for replacement surgery. But doctors can also replace other joints, including shoulders, fingers, and elbows. Your rheumatologist will refer you to an orthopedic surgeon to explore your options. Ask your doctor about all of your RA treatment options.

8 Types of RA Treatment

About The Author

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  7. Study Explores Best Treatment for Recently Diagnosed RA. Arthritis Foundation. http://www.arthritistoday.org/news/best-rheumatoid-arthritis-treatment196.php
  8. Traditional Arthritis Meds May Prevent Joint Damage as Effectively as Biologics. Arthritis Today, Arthritis Foundation. http://www.arthritistoday.org/news/dmards-biologics-effective-rheumatoid-arthritis087
  9. Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment. The Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center. http://www.hopkinsarthritis.org/arthritis-info/rheumatoid-arthritis/ra-treatment/
  10. Joint Replacement Surgery. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. (http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Joint_Replacement/default.asp
  11. Rheumatoid Arthritis. American College of Rheumatology. http://www.rheumatology.org/Practice/Clinical/Patients/Diseases_And_Conditions/Rheumatoid_Arthritis/...

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Last Review Date: 2019 Jul 20
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