Rheumatoid arthritis can not be cured until today. The main purpose of treatment is to relieve pain, inhibit inflammation (which also slows progression), and maintain joint and muscle function. Which measures are indicated in each individual case depends on the activity of the disease. In mild cases, the administration of so-called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (non-cortisone antirheumatics), short NSAIDs. These medicines relieve pain, swelling and inflammation. However, they do not completely halt the destruction of the articular cartilage and have no influence on the progression of the disease.
Side effects of drug therapy
Due to the risk of serious side effects (such as life-threatening gastric ulcers), these medicines should only be taken for prolonged periods under the supervision of a doctor. Newer preparations of this group do not seem to lead to adverse effects on the stomach - with the same efficacy.
For severe forms or high disease activity and threatened joint destruction basic therapies are necessary, that is, drugs that have been shown to affect the course of disease favorable. Gold, chloroquine, D-penicillamine, sulfalazine and methotrexate have proved their worth here. The effect of these agents occurs slowly (at the earliest after 6 to 12 weeks), the rate of side effects is relatively high (about 40%).
Another reliable remedy is cortisone, an endogenous hormone that has a strong anti-inflammatory effect. Cortisone is given in high doses over a short period of time in the "push" and the dose is then gradually reduced. If longer-term administration is required, it is dosed as low as possible. In this way one achieves a high effect and avoids dangerous side effects (see also Frequently Asked Questions).
A new group of drugs in which much hope is placed are the "biological immunomodulators" (substances that control the immune response). This group includes the interleukins or their inhibitors, immunoglobulins and tumor necrosis factor-alpha. They are designed to stop the destruction of articular cartilage by inhibiting the body's "wrong" inflammatory response. These drugs can not cure rheumatoid arthritis, but are another "therapy building block".
Physiotherapy against rheumatoid arthritis
Regular physiotherapy and physical treatments are at least as important as medications. This alleviates restrictions on joint function and strengthens the muscles. Proven measures include cold or hot packs (as the patient may feel), baths, electrotherapy, light treatments, and massage. In a so-called occupational therapy, the person concerned learns to cope with functional limitations in everyday life.
There are numerous surgical procedures developed specifically for rheumatoid arthritis. They are indicated when medications can not halt a rapid progression of joint destruction or there is a disabling dysfunction. If the joint is already destroyed, for example, an artificial joint or a joint stiffening may be necessary.
There is no way to prevent the disease from a chronic polyarthritis - and unfortunately no other way than medication to prevent their progression. An early and carefully performed physiotherapy combined with a proven individual drug treatment is the best way that today's medicine knows.
Nutrition in rheumatoid arthritis
A proper diet can contribute to the therapeutic success as a supportive measure. It makes sense to abstain from foods containing arachidonic acid. These include, for example, eggs, lard, liver sausage and pork liver. The supply of unsaturated fatty acids (lots of fish), an adequate supply of vitamins C and E as well as the so-called trace element selenium (lots of vegetables and high-quality vegetable oils) and of calcium (milk and milk products) and vitamin D are recommended.
Rheumatic diseases, especially rheumatoid arthritis, can be counted among the common diseases. They are not only common but occur in very different mild or severe forms and in all age groups. In the case of adolescents and young adults, they can lead to considerable impairment of the ability to work, and often even to incapacity to work.
Attention: In case of severe discomfort, abnormal physical changes or before taking any medication, be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist. Especially pregnant and chronically ill patients must be careful when using certain medicines!