Can Drugs Stop the Progression of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation typically isolated to the joints. Currently, there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, meaning there is no known drug that can stop the progression of the condition. However, there are many medications that are capable of reducing overall symptoms and even slowing the progression of rheumatoid arthritis.
It should be noted that all medications are associated with certain side effects. Therefore, all options should be discussed with your physician to determine the best combination of treatments.
Disease-Modifying Anti-rheumatic Drugs (DMARDs)
These medications are typically prescribed during the early stages of rheumatoid arthritis in an attempt to slow the condition and limit the amount of joint and other tissue damage. DMARDs usually take weeks or months before showing results. They are commonly used in combination with other medications and typically breed a variety of side effects.
Rheumatoid arthritis is marked by an uncontrolled immune system. Immunosuppressants are used to "tame" the immune system. Immunosuppressants effectively suppress the immune system, causing less overall damage and can eliminate some cells associated with the disease. However, these drugs are commonly associated with serious side effects, as the immune system is highly susceptible to infections.
Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are available over the counter to reduce overall pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis. NSAIDs are commonly utilized and include naproxen sodium (Aleve), and ibuprofen (Motrin and Advil). There are also many prescription NSAIDs available. However, long term use of NSAIDs or high dosages are correlated with many side effects, including stomach bleeding, liver damage, kidney damage, heart problems, and gastric ulcers.
Steroids, medically known as corticosteroids (medrol and prednisone), are known to reduce overall pain and inflammation leading to the slowing of joint damage. While these drugs are commonly effective when first used, as time continues, the effects typically decrease. There are also many side effects including cataracts, bone thinning, weight gain, easily bruising, and diabetes.
The cytokine (cell protein), TNF-Alpha, blocks certain cytokines associated with rheumatoid arthritis, effectively acting as an anti-inflammatory agent that can reduce overall pain and stiffness. However, there are also many side effects associated with TNF-Alpha inhibitors including, congestive heart failure, lymphoma, blood disorders, demyelinating diseases, and an increased overall risk for certain infections.
Rituximab is a drug that effectively reduces the amounts of B-cells, cells in the blood that are involved with inflammation. However, as with all medications, rituximab also is correlated with many side effects including difficulty breathing, fever, nausea, heart problems, and chills.
Anakinra is a synthesized chemical that is structurally similar to a certain antagonistic receptor known as interleukin-1. It is a daily injection that is self-administered, and can have serious side effects, particularly upper respiratory infections, headaches, and decreases in white blood cell count.
Abatacept inactivates T-cells, a certain type of white blood cell in the body responsible for specific roles in the immune response cycle. It also has certain side effects, including upper respiratory infections, pneumonia, nausea, infections and headache.
It's important that you discuss all treatment options with your physician, that you take time to research and understand the condition of rheumatoid arthritis, and that you remind yourself that it is possible to live a quality life with the condition with the right combination of treatment options, of which there are also many natural methods.