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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Arthritis: Treatment & Monitoring
      Category : Health Centers > Arthritis


Alternate Names : Joint Inflammation

Arthritis | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

What are the treatments for the condition?

Treatment varies quite a bit, depending on the type of arthritis and its severity. The age, health, and activity level of the person also are factors to consider. Education about the disease can help bring about improved daily self-management and coping skills.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and aspirin, are often used to treat early symptoms of arthritis. COX-2 specific inhibitors, such as rofecoxib or celecoxib, can also help to relieve symptoms. For some forms of arthritis, corticosteroids such as prednisone can work very well. Corticosteroids can be taken by mouth or injected into the joint. Depression and sleep disorders may be treated with low doses of antidepressant medicines, such as amitriptyline.

A wide variety of medicines are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis:

  • antibiotics, such as doxycycline and minocycline
  • anti-inflammatory medicines
  • corticosteroids, such as prednisone
  • COX-2 specific inhibitor NSAIDs
  • disease-modifying medicines, such as D-penicillamine, which slow down the progression of the disease
  • immunosuppressant medicines, such as methotrexate, which change the body's immune response
  • infliximab and etanercept, which block the effects of an important protein
  • If there is a bacterial infection of the joint, antibiotics are critical. The joint may be drained by repeated aspiration or by open surgical drainage.

    A change in diet may help some forms of arthritis. People who have arthritis might experience loss of appetite or anemia, which is a low red blood cell count. Frequent small feedings or protein supplements may be prescribed. Some medicines, such as oral corticosteroids, can stimulate the appetite and lead to weight gain. Losing excess weight can help, especially when the leg joints are affected. Foods high in protein, iron, and vitamins contribute to tissue building and repair.

    Physical activity is important in the treatment of arthritis. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise a day can help to prevent complications of arthritis, as well as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Low impact aerobics and water aerobics are two exercises that minimize joint stress.

    A recent study focused on adults with osteoarthritis who used tai chi, a form of Chinese exercise that uses slow, fluid movements. Study participants reported better management of their symptoms, along with improved physical and mental health.

    Surgery may be indicated when pain cannot be controlled or function is lost. Several types of surgery may be done:

  • arthroplasty, which is the partial or total replacement of a joint, such as knee joint replacement or a hip joint replacement
  • arthroscopy, a procedure that uses a small scope and instruments to get inside the joint without opening it
  • arthrotomy, which involves opening the joint through a larger incision
  • osteotomy, or realignment of the bone next to the joint
  • synovectomy, or removal of the lining of the joint
  • There has been a great deal of interest lately in the use of glucosamine and chondroitin. These dietary supplements may decrease joint pain associated with arthritis. A large scale study is currently being conducted to determine their effectiveness.

    What are the side effects of the treatments?

    Medicines used to treat arthritis may cause stomach upset, allergic reaction, and decreased resistance to infection. Surgery may cause bleeding, infection, or allergic reaction to anesthesia.

    What happens after treatment for the condition?

    Most types of arthritis require lifelong treatment. Exercises to maintain range of motion and muscle strength are very important.

    How is the condition monitored?

    A healthcare provider will monitor the person's level of comfort and function of the joint. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider.

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    Arthritis: Prevention & Expectations


    Author: John A.K. Davies, MD
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 08/01/01

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