Published: Apr 13, 2016
The effective treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) includes medications that slow the progression of joint damage and deformity. These drugs are called disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), and they are a vital part of an overall treatment plan.
Doctors prescribe DMARDs for people with inflammatory arthritis who are at risk of permanent joint damage. Each DMARD works in different ways to slow or stop the inflammatory process that can damage the joints and internal organs.
DMARDs can improve quality of life for most people ─ some even achieve a remission while taking them. Most of the time, the disease activity continues, but at a slower pace. While taking one or more DMARDs, there may be longer symptom-free periods, or less painful flare-ups. Taking a DMARD regularly makes it less likely to have long-term damage to joints, too.
There can be side effects. The FDA has approved all DMARDs, and many people take them without ever having problems. But because they work throughout the body to fight rheumatoid arthritis, their powerful action typically does cause some side effects, such as:
Though DMARDs can have side effects, there is a good reason to take them – they usually work. Even if you are in a remission, many rheumatologists believe you should continue taking a DMARD, just to keep your RA at bay.
DMARDs are often prescribed together or with a biologic. This is called combination therapy. Biologic drugs are the newest type of treatment for RA, but it's important to understand the differences between treating rheumatoid arthritis with these newer medications compared to traditional DMARDs.
Both traditional DMARDs and newer biologics are changing the way doctors treat rheumatoid arthritis. Today, there are actually better treatment options for RA, and earlier treatment is best. That’s because once joint damage has occurred, it can’t be undone.
Comfort Keepers® can help. Comfort Keepers®’ Interactive Caregiving™ keeps senior clients engaged physically, mentally, and emotionally while living independently at home. We can also remind loved ones to take their medications to keep them safe, healthy, and on schedule. Call your local office today.
WebMD. “Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis With Disease-Modifying Drugs (DMARDs)”. Web. 2015.
Arthritis Foundation. “DMARDs Overview”. Web. 2016.
Everyday Health. “Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis: DMARDs vs. Biologics”. Web. 2014.