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Arthritis treatment drugs and diagnosis

Arthritis is the leading cause of disability over the age of 65.Arthritis problems are caused due to an inflammation of the affected joint, and the condition is trademarked by swelling, stiffness, and pain in the affected area.

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the basic types of medications that are available to help treat arthritis so that you can be more properly informed about the possible solutions to your arthritic problem.

            One of the most commonly prescribed types of drugs for arthritis are known as NSAIDS. NSAIDS stands for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs are used to keep the inflammation of the area affected by arthritis to a minimum, allowing for a decrease in pain and stiffness, and possibly giving the joint a slightly longer range of motion. Commonly used NSAIDS include such household drugs as simple aspirin, ibuprofen, and celebrex.

            Another type of drug that is often prescribed in order to help treat arthritic problems is known as DMARDS. Standing for disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, these compounds act slowly with their effects on arthritis building up after a few weeks. These drugs can help to stop the progression of such arthritis types as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis. Using the DMARDS for a long period of time can cause a ceasing of damage to the affected joint, and they are a great option for those with rheumatoid arthritis.

            Corticosteroids represent another type of drug that is used by arthritis patients. These drugs work by reducing swelling and inflammation in those with arthritis, leading to pain relief and a loosening of the stiff joint. Corticosteroids are most often used to stop inflammation in joints and organs that may be caused by rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and vasculitis. Since these drugs are steroidal, and very similar to a compound produced in the adrenal glands, dosage varies from case to case. If used over a long period of time or in too high of doses, corticosteroids have been determined to lead to long term problems.

            Since the pain associated with arthritis can be so great, many arthritis sufferers resort to pain medications to help curb the agony. Referred to in the medical field as analgesics, substances such as Tylenol, codeine, darvocet, percocet, and vicodin are often prescribed when the pain of arthritis gets to be too much for a patient. Analgesics work like NSAIDS, but they do not help to curb inflammation.

            One class of medication that is rather unique in terms of usage for arthritis is known as a Biologic Response Modifier, or BRM. This type of drugs is not synthesized in a lab, and is instead taken from living sources to help treat particular aspects of arthritis. There are numerous BRMs available, and they can help arthritis patients to cope by decreasing inflammation, blocking the harmful affects of rheumatoid arthritis via a special type of protein, and increasing the body’s T-cells.

            When beginning a regimen of drugs to help treat arthritis, it’s important to let your doctor know about any other medications that you may bet aking. Using different drugs in tandem can decrease their efficiency to a great degree, so it’s important to be sure that your medications work properly.

Science doesn't have a cure for arthritis yet, but there are many types of treatments available that can help relieve the pain and keep you active. 

The exact type of treatment available depends on the particular details of your specific situation, including the joints affected, the extent of the damage, the severity of your pain and how the condition affects your daily activities. Your physical care practitioner also takes into consideration, when treating you, your age and your occupation.

Ultimately, treatment attempts to focus on eliminating the underlying cause of your arthritis. But, keep in mind, that the chances are great that the cause of your arthritis is not curable. Therefore, your personal care practitioner will try to alleviate the symptoms as much as possible. He'll try to maximize your comfort, minimize your pain, and prevent any disability or further damage.

Your personal care practitioner will try to alleviate your symptoms through a variety of medications starting with acetaminophen – commonly sold as Tylenol. More than likely, he'll instruct you to take a maximum of four grams of acetaminophen daily. That equals two extra-strength Tylenol tablets every six hours. 

If you are using this method, be sure that you don't exceed this dosage. And don't drink alcohol in any excess. Doing either of these – or both – may cause damage to your liver.

Not every treatment recommended by your health care practitioner needs to be prescription strength. And this recommended approach is one of those. This initial treatment option can be very effective. It can provide significant relief of the pain associated with arthritis without subjecting you to the adverse side effects of prescription drugs.

Another option that doesn't include prescription drugs involves a class of over-the-counter pain relievers called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, better known as NSAID's. These, too, are more effective than many people realize. But they also come with a price, especially if you use these for an extended period of time. These include ibuprophen (which you may know better as Advil or Motrin), aspirin and naproxen, sold under the brand name of Aleve.

First, keep in mind that you should not take these in any large amount without consulting with your health care practitioner. Long-term use, in large amounts, can have very serious consequences, including increased risks of hart attacks, strokes and stomach ulcers. Extended use of these over-the-counter drugs may also cause bleeding in the digestive tract as well as kidney damage.

If these non-prescription drugs do not relieve your symptoms sufficiently, then your health care practitioner may prescribe Cox2 inhibitors. These medications work by blocking the inflammation promoting enzyme called a Cyclo-oxygenase-2 (COX-2). These drugs were initially hailed as an improvement over the NSAID's. They perform the same duties, but with supposedly less risk of potential stomach problems.

In recent years, though, this class of drugs has been in the news for its potentially deadly side effects. Marketed under such names as Vioxx and Bextra, arthritis patients soon discovered an increased risk of heart attacks. Indeed, several deaths were supposedly attributed to these medications. These two, in particular, were removed from the market.

However, Celcoxib, sold under the brand name Celebrex, is still available to those with arthritic pain. But most professionals recommend that it be prescribed for only the shortest amount of time with the least possible dosage. Only you and your health care practitioner can determine whether this is the proper treatment for your particular case of arthritis.

Another weapon in the arsenal against arthritis symptoms your health care practitioner may pull out is classified as a "steroid". This class of drug is more formally called corticosteroids, which work by suppressing the immune system. By doing so, it effectively alleviates the inflammation. This can be administered either orally or through injection. While it's an option in most forms of arthritis, it should not be used in cases of infectious arthritis. Moreover, steroids, too, are not without their side effects. These include upset stomach, gastrointestinal bleeding, high blood pressure, thinning of the bones, as well as cataracts. The risks are far greater the longer you're taking them or with the higher dosages.

Arthritis:  Treatment


Conventional treatment falls far short in helping the average individual suffering with arthritis.


Over-the-counter remedies -- normally referred to as NSAIDs – nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – ease the pain for brief periods.  Realistically, the sheer quantities needed of these to quell pain for a single day – let along weeks or months at a time – make them dangerous.  There are two serious adverse side affects: the danger of stomach bleeding and with some of the very real chance of damaging your liver.


Prescription medications, designed specifically to avoid adverse side affects, fare no better.  Within the last several years, these have proven to possess even worse side effects – even heart attacks and in some cases death.  Many of them have been pulled off the market.  The ones that are left have been “black boxed” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  This means they have been labeled with the strongest warning possible regarding the dangers of using them.


It’s no secret, though, that Mother Nature has provided a wealth of herbs that can help relieve the pain of arthritis naturally – and with far less side effects than the synthetic remedies possess.


Briefly, here’s a list of some of the most effective herbs that many arthritis sufferers turn to. It’s vital to note that before taking any herb, you should consult with your physician.  He’ll let you know if any specific item you’d like to try would interfere with any medication he may be giving you.


Before you embark on a course of action that includes herbs, you should also consult with a professional herbalist.  She’ll be able to direct you to the proper herb that would be most beneficial in your case, as well as inform of any side effects.  She’ll also help you determine the best possible servings for you as well.


Some of the most effective herbs for arthritis include:


White willow bark.  This is nature’s form of aspirin.  It’s literally the herb from which we first got the now-popular medicine.

Cayenne.  Yes, the same as found in chili peppers.  And it’s been used for literally centuries to help alleviate the discomfort of arthritis.

Hawthorn.  More well known as an aid to all sorts of heart problems, it’s also great for the discomfort and stiffness of arthritis.

Blueberries. Cherries.  These plants contain wonderful natural substances that work as antioxidants.

Ginger.  Legendary in its effects on alleviating discomfort from arthritis, many individuals turn to this herb first.



Reduction in joint pain.  Improved range of motion.  Improved walking speed.  This is what every arthritis sufferer hopes for.  And it appears it’s what the natural substance glucosamine delivers.  At least that’s what several short-term studies reveal.  Not only that, but its ability to perform in all these areas is at least as good as – if not better in some cases – than anti-inflammatory drugs.


Another natural substance you’ll find paired with glucosamine many times is chondroiton.  They make an effective pair because they work synergistically to actually stimulate the creation of new cartilage.  And there’s one more exciting aspect to this dynamic duo.  Together, they have the capacity to actually stop the deterioration process of the joint and help the body to heal itself.


You can find this natural supplement paired together in your local pharmacy or health food store.  It’s becoming more popular as people discover its effectiveness.  If you decide to go this route, though, be sure to consult with your personal health care practitioner.


There’s still one more exciting natural approach to managing your arthritis that deserves at least a mention.  It’s the use of avocado soybean unsaponifiables.  You may find these supplements marketed as ASU for short. This combination is more – much more – than just a mixture of avocado and soybean oil.  ASU is derived from a tiny fraction of the natural oil found in both soybeans and avocados.  No medical expert really understands yet the precise compounds in these plants which are providing the extraordinary results. ASU appears to be able not only to ease the discomfort of arthritis and but to help the body heal itself from the ravages of this joint disease.



Arthritis:  Diagnosis


While arthritis may be a common disease of aging, that doesn’t mean it’s not without risks.  Nearly one-third of those who develop arthritis eventually experience some form of disability.


So it’s more important than ever to visit your health care practitioner as soon as you suspect that your aches and pains are more than just your typical battle scars of the day.  This is doubly important if you’re past the age of 50 and haven’t had many problems up till now.


If your health care practitioner thinks you may be developing osteoarthritis, he’ll do more than just examine the affected joint.  He may also recommend that an x-ray of the joint be taken.  This may reveal if the space within the joint is starting to narrow.  If it is, this means that the cartilage is beginning to deteriorate.  The x-ray may also show any bone spurs around the joint as well.


Don’t be surprised if he also asks you to undergo some blood tests.  These are to rule out the possibility of rheumatoid arthritis.


Another procedure your health care practitioner may perform is joint fluid analysis.  He’ll draw fluid from the affected joint using a long needle.  The fluid is then tested to rule out the possibility that the pain is from gout or a general infection.


The possibility also exists that he’ll ask to perform an arthroscopy.  This procedure uses a very small camera to actually view the inside of your joint.  This is an invaluable tool in helping to detect the exact nature of your pain.  In order to get the camera in the joint, he’ll make several small incisions around the affect joint.  Then he evaluates the area from the video that appears on the video screen.


Early detection is vital.  But even with this, there are instances where the deterioration seems unstoppable.  In these cases, joint pain and the accompanying stiffness may grow so severe that just getting through the day is a triumph over pain and immobility.  Some people must even quit their jobs, because of the difficulty they face in moving about or performing their duties without extreme pain in the affected areas.


If your joint pain is severe enough, your health care practitioner may recommend joint replacement surgery.  If this isn’t an option – and it isn’t for everyone – he may recommend you use assistive devices that can make your daily tasks at least more manageable.



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