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Rheumatoid Arthritis

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More than analyzing, advancing.

Cancer Institute of Florida is committed to providing those with Rheumatoid Arthritis the latest and most effective treatments and therapies available.

Treatment Options for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment Orlando
RA usually requires lifelong treatment, including medications, physical therapy, exercise, education and possibly surgery. Early, aggressive treatment for RA can delay joint destruction.

Medications

Disease modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs): These drugs are the current standard of care for RA, in addition to rest, strengthening exercises and anti-inflammatory drugs. However, these drugs may have serious side effects, so you will need frequent blood tests when taking them.

Anti-inflammatory medications:

These include aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen. Although NSAIDs work well, long-term use can cause stomach problems, such as ulcers and bleeding, and possible heart problems.

Antimalarial medications:

This group of medicines includes hydroxychloroquine and sulfasalazine and is usually used along with methotrexate. It may be weeks or months before you see any benefit from these medications.

Corticosteroids:

These medications work very well to reduce joint swelling and inflammation. Because of long-term side effects, corticosteroids should be taken only for a short time and in low doses when possible.

Biologic Agents:

Biologic drugs are designed to affect parts of the immune system that play a role in the disease process of rheumatoid arthritis.

They may be given when other medicines for rheumatoid arthritis have not worked. At times, the doctor will start biologic drugs sooner, along with other rheumatoid arthritis drugs.

Most of them are given either under the skin (subcutaneously) or into a vein (intravenously).

There are different types of biologic agents:

  • White blood cell modulators
  • Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors include
  • Interleukin-6 (IL-6) inhibitors
  • Biologic agents can be very helpful in treating rheumatoid arthritis. However, people taking these drugs must be watched very closely because of serious risk factors:
    • Infections from bacteria, viruses, and fungi
    • Leukemia
    • Possibly psoriasis

Surgery

Occasionally, surgery is needed to correct severely affected joints. Surgeries can relieve joint pain and deformities.

The first surgical treatment may be a synovectomy, which is the removal of the joint lining (synovium).

At some point, total joint replacement is needed. In extreme cases, total knee, hip replacement, ankle replacement, shoulder replacement and others may be done. These surgeries can mean the difference between being totally dependent on others and having an independent life at home.

Physical Therapy

Range-of-motion exercises and exercise programs prescribed by a physical therapist can delay the loss of joint function.

Joint protection techniques, heat and cold treatments, and splints or orthotic devices to support and align joints may be very helpful.

Sometimes therapists will use special machines to apply deep heat or electrical stimulation to reduce pain and improve joint mobility.

Occupational therapists can create splints for the hand and wrist, and teach how to best protect and use joints when they are affected by arthritis. They also show people how to better cope with day-to-day tasks at work and at home, despite limitations caused by RA.

Frequent rest periods between activities, as well as 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night, are recommended.