Arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the joints. It can be treated with dozens of medications of different classes. Arthritis is currently treated with more than 100 medications. These medications can not completely cure the disease but can relieve symptoms of arthritis such as joint pain, stiffness and swelling. Arthritis medications are used to reduce inflammation, increase joint mobility and decrease flare-ups.
Types of Arthritis Medications
There are four main types of medications used for treatment of arthritis. Painkillers or analgesics are the first category of arthritis medications. They include aspirin, paracetamol and ibuprofen. These medications are available over-the-counter. Aspirin and ibuprofen belong to a class of drugs known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They are used to reduce the swelling and inflammation as well as decrease the flare ups. However, anti-inflammatory drugs also provide with some pain relief.
Anti-inflammatory drugs include steroids and non-steroidal drugs. In order to be effective, NSAIDs must be taken for an extended period of time but this may, on the other hand, cause stomach problems. NSAIDs such as naproxen, fenbufen, piroxicam and Cox-2 inhibitors are most commonly prescribed drugs for arthritis.
Steroids (corticosteroids) are very effective in reducing inflammation. Steroids are mainly used for severe cases of arthritis. However, when used on a long run, steroids can cause severe side effects. The most commonly prescribed steroid is prednisolone.
Disease-modifying Anti-rheumatic Drugs
Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are used in treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Disease-modifying drugs can be administered orally or intravenously. These medications are not used to manage the symptoms but to suppress the immune system that attacks the joints. Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic medications include methotrexate, sulfasalazine and gold (sodium aurothiomalate).
Biologic Response Modifiers
Biologic response modifiers (BRMs) have been used in treatment of severe cases of rheumatoid arthritis. However, these arthritis medications are now used as a part of early treatment for arthritis to prevent severe damage to the joints. In most cases biologic response modifiers are effective but are not adequate for all patients. BMRs used in treatment of arthritis include monoclonal antibodies, interferon and interleukin-2. These drugs can be administered in a form of injections or intravenous infusions. BMRs are more expensive than other arthritis medications.
Side Effects of Arthritis Medications
Arthritis medications are associated with different side effects such as urinary problems, upset stomach, skin rash, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness etc. However, they are very powerful and can effectively manage the disease. Side effects of arthritis medications can be reduced if the patient is strictly following doctor’s instructions. Also, due to variety of drugs available for treatment of arthritis the patient can switch to an arthritis medication that causes less side effects.