In general, joint damage takes place within the first two years of diagnosis. That is rheumatoid arthritis must be diagnosed and treated as early as possible to prevent long-term consequences. The kind of treatment a patient needs depends on many factors such as age, overall health, medical history, and severity of the arthritis. Although rheumatoid arthritis cannot be cured, there are many ways to manage it including the following:
The first step to treating people with rheumatoid arthritis is to consider the following non-pharmacologic therapies:
- Inflamed joints are at a high risk of injury, so they need to be rested. But, patients must maintain physical fitness as much as possible. They have to maintain a good range of motion in the joints and good overall fitness.
- Exercise. Inactivity can result in a loss of joint motion, strength, and contractions, so sufferers must exercise despite their condition. This will lead to reduced joint stability and increased fatigue.
- Physical and occupational therapy. This therapy can relieve pain and inflammation, as well as preserve joint structure and function. This therapy can include heat and cold application, ultrasound, exercises, rest and splinting, relaxation, as well as finger-splinting.
- Nutrition and dietary therapy. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis should eat certain foods and avoid some food to reach a desirable cholesterol level. Maintaining a specific diet is important for overweight and obese people as too much body weight can put more stress on inflamed joints.
Patients might be prescribed with medications to alleviate joint pain, inflammation, and swelling or slow down the condition. The kind of drugs to take will depend on the severity of the condition and how the body responds to medications. Medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, COX-2 inhibitors, and Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are usually recommended for treating the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.