Medications aimed and alleviating arthritis symptoms and treating arthritis’ debilitating effects and deterioration processes are being continuously developed.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It may involve damage to the joints in the knees, hip and wrists. Although usually diagnosed in the elderly, people as young as 25 can develop osteoarthritis in any joint.
There is no cure for this disease and medical treatments may provide relief of symptoms and improvement in quality of life. This disease takes its toll on physical functioning leading to disability and handicap while more and more the patient is dependent on others to walk and climb stairs.
For effectively reducing pain and inflammation in the affected joints the conventional medical treatment is with Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs known as NSAIDs. These drugs are not steroids however patients should be warned that long term treatment with these medications has been found to cause serious side effects as internal bleeding, hypertension (high blood pressure), congestive heart failure (heart attack) and damage to the kidneys.
Rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis are chronic joint diseases. Medications for treating these more severe types of arthritis are aimed at stopping, preventing, and even reversing bone and cartilage changes occurring as the disease worsens.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an example of a destructive arthritis. This progressive disease causes swelling of the joints. A continuing process of inflammatory attacks on the bones membrane causes bone erosion often leading to irreversible joint damage. This inflammatory condition can lead to considerable disability and severe degrees of joint pain. The severity of this structural bone damage can be predicted according to the severity of the inflammation, the number of swollen joints, or the duration of morning stiffness. Bone and cartilage damage is rapid and dynamic after disease onset. In most patients this structural bone damage occurs within the first year of the disease. Therefore the key to effective treatment begins with early diagnosis.
To treat this process, by effectively controlling the inflammation and reversing the structural damage to the bones, a specific medicine was developed. These are known as conventional Disease-Modifying Anti-rheumatic Drugs or DMARDs.
Ankylosing spondylitis another chronic joint disease involves inflammation in the sacroiliac joints and the spine. As the disease progresses the patient suffers from ongoing back pain stiffness. Medical treatments for Ankylosing spondylitis are physiotherapy and medication as Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs).
Psoriatic arthritis patients in addition to the inflammatory arthritis process also suffer from psoriasis on their skin. In most cases they first suffered from psoriasis which later worsened to psoriatic arthritis however in some patients the psoriasis symptoms occurred after the development of the arthritis disease. In addition to joint inflammation and psoriasis on their skin these patients often also have changes in their nails as pitting or ridging. This disease also leads to severe damage to the joints and handicap overtime.
The latest medications developed for treating these three chronic joint diseases Rheumatoid arthritis, Psoriatic arthritis and Ankylosing spondylitis are called Tumor Necrosis Factor α blockers (TNF α blockers). These are biologically specific therapies which have essentially revolutionized the treatment of inflammatory arthritis diseases by effectively controlling disease symptoms and progression.
Depending on the case the patient can be treated with TNF α blockers alone or in what as known as combination therapy together with Disease-Modifying Anti-rheumatic Drugs (DMARDs). Although TNF α blockers are very effective in treating the disease especially if the treatment begins in the early stages of the disease, this treatment often causes side effects as the development of serious infections requiring hospitalization.