Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment

There’s no cure for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), but there are treatments that can help you to manage it. RA can be very unpredictable and needs both you as the patient and the doctor to determine a proper management plan. Treatment has advanced a lot; outcomes have improved significantly for people with RA.

Using your medication correctly can improve symptoms and delay progression of the disease (preventing it from getting worse over time). The treatment available targets the disease and not just the symptoms. When treatment works there are fewer symptoms, less flare-ups and a greater quality of life.

If the medication is not working or you are experiencing side effects, your doctor should assess whether your treatment needs to be changed. Slowing down the disease is the aim. Complete remission is possible.


Treatments may include:

  • Medication
  • Dietary changes
  • Specific types of exercise

It is up to your doctor to determine the best treatment plan for your medical needs. It is key to stick to the recommended treatment plan to get the best results.

For several people, these treatments help them live an active, full life with a reduced risk of developing complications.


There are many types of medication available for RA. Some medication help to reduce the pain and inflammation associated with the condition. Some help to reduce flare-ups and limit damage to the joints.

The following are over-the-counter medications that can be purchased at your local pharmacy. These drugs help reduce the pain and inflammation during flare-ups:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) e.g. Ibuprofen
  • Paracetamol

The following drugs work to slow the damage caused by the condition:

  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) - DMARDs work by blocking your body’s attempt to destroy itself. This helps to slow down the progression of RA. An example of this is a drug called methotrexate.
  • Biologics - these are newer DMARDs that provide a targeted response to inflammation rather than blocking your body’s entire immune system. They may be an effective treatment for people who don’t respond to the more traditional DMARDs. An example of this is rituximab.

Your doctor will tailor a management plan to treat your condition.

Take responsibility for managing your health by using your medication as prescribed, attending physiotherapy or occupational therapy appointments and listening to the instructions given to you by your doctor. 


Written by Dr Ruusa Shivute | Health Window

Reference: Scott DL, Wolfe F, Huizinga TW. Rheumatoid arthritis. Lancet. 2010 Sep 25;376(9746):1094-108.

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