Rheumatoid Awareness Day is February 2nd, 2021 in the U.S. and is helpful to increase your own awareness of rheumatoid arthritis, and how you might be able to contribute to a better understanding and treatment for this dread condition. In Hernando and elsewhere around the country, events will be planned so as to raise funds for research, to help educate people about the causes and symptoms of the disease, and to organize groups that can discuss how to provide better care for victims. Senior home care professionals must frequently take care of individuals afflicted by rheumatoid arthritis, and it is important for them to know how to manage the symptoms of this disease.
How symptoms can be managed
The type of treatment which will be most effective for rheumatoid arthritis will generally depend on how severe the symptoms are, and how long the patient has had to deal with rheumatoid arthritis. There is no known cure for this disease, and that means the most that can be achieved is a lessening of the symptoms and generally effective management of them. Here are some of the most common medication forms of treatment:
- Biologic agents – these are drugs that target specific areas of the immune system that trigger the inflammation which causes so much damage to tissues and joints. A few examples of this class of anti-rheumatic drugs include abatacept (Orencia), adalimumab (Humira), tocilizumab (Actemra), infliximab (Remicade), rituximab (Rituxan), anakinra (Kineret), baricitinib (Olumiant), certolizumab (Cimzia), golimumab (Simponi), sarilumab (Kevzara), etanercept (Enbrel), and tofacitinib (Xeljanz). These kinds of drugs are also known to increase the likelihood of infections. People who have rheumatoid arthritis might experience a higher risk of blood clots in their lungs when higher doses of tofacitinib are used. Biologic DMARD’s are generally much more effective when coupled with a non-biologic DMARD, for example, methotrexate.
- Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARD’s)– this class of drugs is capable of slowing the progress of rheumatoid arthritis, and can therefore preserve tissues and joints from being permanently damaged. There are some side effects that are sometimes associated with this class of drugs, including lung infections, bone marrow suppression, and liver damage. Some good examples of these are leflunomide (Arava), hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil), methotrexate (Trexall), and sulfasalazine (Azulfidine).
- Steroids – most corticosteroid medications are capable of reducing inflammation, pain, and damage done to joints. Some of the side effects of prolonged steroid usage include weight gain, diabetes, and a thinning of bone structure. For the most part, doctors will prescribe steroids for the relief of acute symptoms, with the ultimate objective of tapering off steroid usage.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – these drugs are capable of reducing inflammation and relieving pain, and many of them are available over the counter. There are also stronger versions of these drugs which are available by prescription. Some of the known side effects of taking these drugs include kidney damage, heart problems, and stomach irritation. Some common over-the-counter NSAIDs are ibuprofen naproxen sodium (Aleve) and (Advil).
Other symptom management approaches
Physical therapy is another proven approach to managing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, and the goal of physical therapy is to maintain flexibility in the joints of the body. A physical therapist might also recommend easier ways of accomplishing daily tasks, which won’t put as much stress on joints. There are a great many household implements that can be installed to make life easier for someone who has rheumatoid arthritis.
As an example, installing buttonhooks in the bedroom can make it easier to accomplish dressing each day. Using kitchen knives equipped with a handgrip will make it easier for wrist joints and fingers to grip the knives. Medical supply stores carry a good many home implements like these which can make it easier for someone afflicted by rheumatoid arthritis to carry out necessary daily functions.
When medications and therapy are unable to deliver serious relief to the patient afflicted by rheumatoid arthritis, surgery might be an option that can be more effective. Surgeries can be performed on knees, wrists, hips, fingers, and elbows so as to remove any inflamed lining which is present. When joint damage and inflammation have occurred and have caused tendons to rupture or become loose, surgery might possibly repair those damaged tendons.
When joint replacement is not an option, it might be possible to surgically fuse joints so they can be stabilized, or properly realigned. It’s also possible to perform a complete joint replacement surgery, in which the damaged part of any joint is taken out, and a prosthesis is inserted which is made of plastic or metal.
Any time surgery is performed, there are certain risks that attend the procedure, so the risks involved with surgery must be weighed against the potential benefits derived. This should always be a discussion with your primary care doctor, and any patient should have a good understanding of the pros and cons before surgery is considered.