The aim of the treatment is to relieve pain, minimize the inflammatory process, preserve joint movement and correct any deformities present. RA usually requires lifelong treatment with medications, physical therapy, exercise, education and surgery.
- Disease Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs) are prescribed in addition to rest, exercises and anti-inflammatory drugs. Methotrexate is the most commonly used DMARD for rheumatoid arthritis.
- Anti-inflammatory medications like aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen are used for pain relief.
- Antimalarial medication like hydroxychloroquine is usually used along with methotrexate.
- Corticosteroids- These medications reduce joint swelling and inflammation.
Occasionally surgery is needed for reconstruction of the damaged joints. The following surgical procedures are used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis:
- Synovectomy- This type of surgical procedure is done to remove the inflamed joint lining (synovium) and to slow down the progression of the disease to other joints.
- Osteotomy- This is a surgical procedure of removing or cutting a part of affected bone.
- Arthrodesis- This is a surgical way of fusing the joints. This is performed to relive pain in the joint and to promote painless fusion.
- Arthroplasty- This is a construction of a new movable joint to preserve movements of affected joints.
- Exercise prescribed by a physical therapist can delay the loss of joint function and help keep muscles strong. However, it is recommended to avoid jogging and running on hard surfaces.
- Splints - Splints are used for support, rest, to prevent deformity and to relax the muscles.
- Heat and cold treatments - Crushed ice wrapped in towel is placed over the joints to relieve pain and to drain swelling. Wax may be applied to relieve pain and stiffness of the joints. Sometimes therapists make use of special machines to apply deep heat or electrical stimulation to reduce pain and improve joint movement.
- Hydrotherapy involves performing exercise under water. The warmth of water relives pain.
- Nutrition And Diet - A balanced nutritious diet is essential for patients affected with rheumatoid arthritis. It may be helpful to eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Rest - It is recommended to take frequent rest between activities. 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night is essential.