More on Arthritis

Testing, or diagnosis, of arthritis might include:

  • Obtaining a detailed history to conclude if arthritis or another musculoskeletal problem is the cause of the symptoms.
  • Thorough physical exam to see if fluid is collecting in the joint (effusion); the joint might be tender when it is gently pressed and may be warm and red. It may also be painful or difficult to rotate the joints in some directions. This is known as limited range of motion (ROM).
  • Blood tests
  • X-rays
  • Extraction of fluid from the joint for further exam

Testing, however, will depend on the individual circumstances.

Medications without a prescription can include:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) as a pain reliever; this is usually the first course of treatment that is used instead of a prescription.
  • Aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen are used as an over the counter, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). This will help reduce swelling and inflammation.

Prescription medications may include:

  • Biologics~most recent breakthrough for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Such medications include etanercept (Enbrel), infliximab (Remicade) and adalimumab (Humira) and they are administered by injection and can improve quality of life.
  • Corticosteroids (steroids) ~these are medications that suppress the immune system and inflammation. This is another injection and it is injected into the affected joint.
  • Cycloonygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitors~these drugs block and inflammation-promoting enzyme called COX-2. This class of drugs was initially thought to work as well as traditional NSAIDs, but with fewer stomach problems. There have been numerous reports of heart attacks and stroke and this has prompted the FDA (Federal Drug Administration) to re-evaluate the benefits. Celecoxib (Celebrex) is still available but labeled with strong precautions.
  • Immunosuppressants~these drugs like azathioprine or cyclophosphamide are used for serious cases of rheumatoid arthritis when other medications have failed.

It is important to remember to take all medications as directed; if any difficulty is experienced, it is important to talk with the doctor. Do not stop taking medications unless directed to do so by a physician.

Check back on Thursday, October 28, 2010 for more information on Arthritis

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