Arthritis medications play an essential role in controlling the progression and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Starting treatment soon after diagnosis is most effective. And the best medical care combines rheumatoid arthritis medications and other approaches.
You may take rheumatoid arthritis medications alone, but they are often most effective in combination. These are the main types of RA medications:
- Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
- Biologic response modifiers (a type of DMARD)
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs)
- Analgesics (painkillers)
Rheumatoid Arthritis Drugs: DMARDs
If you've been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, your doctor may recommend that you begin treatment with one of several types of DMARDs within a few months of diagnosis. One of the most essential drugs in the arsenal for treating rheumatoid arthritis, DMARDs can often slow or stop the progression of RA by interrupting the immune process that promotes inflammation. However, they may take up to six months to be fully capable.
DMARDs have greatly improved the quality of life for many people with rheumatoid arthritis. These RA drugs are often used along with NSAIDs or glucocorticoids; however, with this type of medication, you may not need other anti-inflammatories or analgesics.
Because DMARDs target the immune system, they also can weaken the immune system's ability to fight infections. This means you must be watchful for early signs of infection. In some cases, you may also need regular blood tests to make sure the drug is not hurting blood cells or specific organs such as your liver, lungs, or kidneys.