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 Arthritis  Holistic-online.com

Standard Medical Treatment for Arthritis

Osteoarthritis afflicts the weight-bearing joints: the knees, hips, and spine. It causes the cartilage in the joints to degenerate. It often manifests after an injury or from repetitive physical tasks that place excess stress upon joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis is the most severe type of inflammatory joint disease. It is an autoimmune disorder in which the body's immune system attacks and damages joints and surrounding soft tissue.

There is no cure for arthritis, especially if the bone or cartilage has deteriorated. While arthritis medications may help many people, they can have severe side effects, including immune system suppression, intestinal bleeding, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, depression, headaches and elevated blood pressure.

Standard Western medical treatment for arthritis consists of:

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, Advil (ibuprofen) and Orudis (ketoprofen).

Oral steroids, such as prednisone and hydrocortisone.

Powerful painkillers, such as codeine, and synthetic narcotics, such as Vicodin.

Antirheumatic medications, such as gold injections, an immune system suppresser named Methotrexate and an antimalaria drug called Plaquenil. (See details below.)


Heat therapy.

Surgery to "clean up" ends of bones.

Supervised exercise program: For mild to moderate arthritis, a supervised exercise program may be prescribed to improve joint function without aggravating the situation.

Injection of synthetic corticosteroids into the most affected joint spaces. This helps to minimize the use of oral forms of these drugs, which have a greater risk of causing such systemic effects as fluid retention and suppression of adrenal and immune function.

Joint-replacement surgery: If destruction progresses to the point that pain or lack of mobility becomes unbearable, joint-replacement surgery may be recommended.

For rheumatoid arthritis, alternating applications of heat and cold, alternating rest and exercise therapies, and splints and other assistive devices may be prescribed

Methotrexate (Rheumatrex) is a cancer chemotherapy drug that inhibits the synthesis of DNA, thus interfering with cell replication, particularly in fast-growing cells. Why it helps people with rheumatoid arthritis is not known, but it can be effective within about a month of treatment, sometimes highly so.

Caution: Methotrexate is highly toxic. It can cause bone-marrow suppression, liver damage, and severe lung damage, and other serious side effects. Its use must be very closely monitored by a physician experienced with this kind of therapy.

Gold salts: These are most often administered by injection. They are sometimes used to treat rheumatoid arthritis if other drugs have failed.

aurothioglucose (solganal) 
gold sodium thiomalate (Myochrysine)
auranofin (Ridaura). 
Mode of action is unknown. About half the people who receive this treatment experience improvement, but they rarely improve completely, and side effects are not uncommon. 

Caution: This may cause side effects such as suppression of the bone marrow resulting in blood abnormalities, kidney damage, liver damage, lung damage, colitis, rashes, skin pigment changes, itching, nausea, and nerve damage.

The antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) also is used in some cases of rheumatoid arthritis. The reason for this drug's effect on rheumatoid arthritis is not understood. It results in improvement in fewer than half the cases treated and can take up to 6 months for effect; however, it is considered less toxic than some other drugs used for this condition.

Side effects: skin rash, itching, hair loss, skin pigment changes, nausea, weight loss, blood abnormalities, and irreversible vision damage.

Penicillamine (Cuprimine, Depen) - A chelating agent that may be prescribed for some people with severe rheumatoid arthritis.
Side effects:  Side effects are common. Up to half of those who take penicillamine may experience adverse effects, including blood abnormalities, kidney damage, autoimmune disorders, rashes, mouth ulcers, and loss of the sense of taste.

Sulfasalazine (Azulfidine) is a common second-line drug tried for rheumatoid arthritis due to its potential toxicity. Blood counts should be taken frequently, as blood abnormalities are frequent.

Experimental treatments deliberately aimed at suppressing the immune system:
These involve the use of such agents as cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan) or chlorambucil (Leukeran). These are cancer chemotherapy drugs with extremely powerful and serious effects. Side effects can be severe, including blood abnormalities, bone-marrow suppression, serious lung disease, and cancer.

Fish-oil and oral cartilage supplements.

Some women experience arthritic symptoms around the time of menopause. If this happens to you, consult with your gynecologist or other health-care practitioner. Often, balancing a woman's hormones can quickly reduce these aches and pains. 

See Also:   Conventional Medical Treatments for osteoarthritis

Conventional Medical Treatments for rheumatoid arthritis

Next Topic: Common Sense Recommendations

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