Being defined as an inflammation of the joints that causes pain and immobility, arthritis varies from mild to severe. This very common condition comes up with people of all ages and from all periods of life.
Although many conditions of arthritis can be effectively controlled, there is still no single cure for all of them. As the type, severity and impact of arthritis on each patient are different from the others, treatments also depend on the needs of each individual.
Arthritis medication has become an essential part of life for most people living with this disease. It is recommended that patients should take control and understand their medication to discuss with their doctors what works best for themselves.
In terms of function, drugs used by people with arthritis is usually divided into these main families:
Painkillers (analgesics): This kind of drug can be used for all types of arthritis. Usually, paracetamol is the most common type of painkillers people use. They work well when you take them regularly during a flare-up of pain. But in case patients use these frequently and they are out of work, you should think about alternatives.
NSAIDs: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) control the symptoms of disease. It is used to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Over-the-counter NSAIDs consisting of ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) and naproxen sodium (Aleve).
Most types of arthritis are treated by these drugs including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and they reduce specific symptoms including pain, swelling and stiffness. However, the side effects come along with it may include ringing in your ears, stomach irritation, heart problems, and liver and kidney damage.
Steroids: Corticosteroid medications which are powerful, natural anti-inflammatory agents. They help to reduce inflammation and pain and slow joint damage. Side effects may include thinning of bones, weight gain and diabetes. One of the possible side-effects of steroid treatment is osteoporosis. Because of this, steroids are commonly used only for short periods.
Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs): These drugs can help to slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis and prevent the joints and other tissues from permanent damage. They affect the disease itself. Example, suppressing the immune system (the body’s own defence system). Common DMARDs include methotrexate (Trexall), leflunomide (Arava), hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) and sulfasalazine (Azulfidine).
Side effects range from person to person but may include liver damage, bone marrow suppression and severe lung infections.
Surgery for arthritis
When other conservative treatments fail to prevent or to slow joint damage, surgery will be an essential and advisable solution for the arthritis patients, especially in case their joint is damaged severely enough to cause difficulties in daily life.
Benefits of surgery are obvious, it help to restore your ability to use damaged joint, reduce pain as well as correcting deformities. A wide range of types of surgery can help people who suffering from arthritis, from small procedures (such as operations to remove cysts or nodules), to major surgery (which includes total joint replacement) at different joints including hip, knee, shoulder and elbow:
- Joint repair: The very first type of arthritis surgery is repairing. Aim to reduce pain and improve function of joint when the damage is not too severe, these types of procedures can often be carried out arthroscopically — through small incisions over the joint.
- Joint replacement: This type of surgery removes your damaged joint and replaces it with an artificial one. Hip and knee replacements are the most common procedures. In the past, most operations were performed on people over 60 but, as the quality of artificial hips and knees has improved, younger people are having these procedures yet they need revision surgery later in life, so the decision to have surgery needs to take this into account.
- Joint fusion: Being often used for smaller joints as those in the wrist, ankle and fingers, this kind of surgery removes the ends of the two bones in the joint and lock those ends together until they heal into one rigid unit.
Besides many benefits, surgery also takes a risk of bleeding, infection and pain. Discuss the benefits and risks with your doctor before you decide to take surgery.
Physical therapies for arthritis
Besides mediation, usually, your doctor will suggest a course of physical therapies to help you reduce some of the symptoms. These may include any or all of the following:
Exercises: Extend the range of motion and strengthen the muscles surrounding joints. In some cases, splints or braces may be warranted.
Hydrotherapy : Hydrotherapy is a combination of exercises in a warm-water pool. With this type of therapy, the water supports your weight, so puts less pressure on your muscles and joints.
Physiotherapy: With specific exercises basing on your condition and individual, this therapy help to strengthen your general fitness and muscle, in some case, it can be combined with pain-relieving treatments like ice or heat packs and massage.
Occupational therapy: It actually is practical advice on managing everyday tasks, choosing specialised aids and equipment, protecting your joints from further damage and managing fatigue.