Arthritis Relief Medications
Many arthritis medications aim to reduce inflammation.
In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, where the underlying cause is an overactive immune system, they also work by dampening the immune response.
Medications for Rheumatoid Arthritis
There three main types of rheumatoid arthritis medications: corticosteroids, disease-modifying drugs and biological drugs.
Corticosteroids, like prednisolone, are usually prescribed as a short course, as long term they can produce serious side effects including:
- Weight gain
- Thinning of the bones or skin
- High blood pressure
- Stomach pain, nausea or gastric bleeding
- Lowered immunity and higher risk of infections
Disease-modifying drugs, for example methotrexate, are another class of drugs sometimes prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis relief. These affect the immune system and reduce inflammation. Side effects include:
- Liver damage
- Reduced production of red blood cells
- Lung, intestine or stomach damage
The newest class of drugs for rheumatoid arthritis relief are the biologic drugs. These include adalimumab and etanercept. Again, these reduce inflammation by calming the immune system. Side effects include:
- Lowered immunity and increased risk of infection
- Flu-like symptoms
If you are currently taking prescription rheumatoid arthritis medications, then stopping suddenly may cause side effects. Options include combining natural options with medication, with the support of your doctor or finding a holistic GP to collaborate with on your health strategy.
Medications for Osteoarthritis
Treatment for osteoarthritis includes painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication.
The most commonly prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs are non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, naproxen and diclofenac. These are safe for most people although asthmatics, people suffering from cardio-vascular disease and people with gastric problems should exercise caution. The main side effect of NSAIDs is that they irritate the stomach lining. This can be avoided by taking them after food. Other side effects include:
- Gastrointestinal bleeding and ulcers
- Increased risk of stroke or heart attack
- Kidney damage
Other painkillers can also be used, although they do not have the effect of reducing inflammation. When taken properly, paracetamol is the safest option as it is well tolerated by most people and available over the counter. Stronger painkillers which contain an opioid such as codeine may be prescribed if necessary. The side effects of opioids include:
- Risk of dependence
- Risk of overdose
Like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis can be treated using corticosteroid drugs to reduce inflammation. These can be taken orally or injected into a specific joint to reduce the risk of side effects.
Osteoarthritis can also be treated surgically. An arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure in which a small tool is used to repair damaged joints and cartilage. Whole joints can also be replaced if the damage is severe.