Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis When First Diagnosed

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DMARDs (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs)


They are one of common choices for initial treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) because they can help ease the symptom and slow the progression of the disease. They work by eliminating the effects of the chemicals released when the body immune system mistakenly attacks the joint.

You usually take them in tablets. And there are several types of DMARDs. Methotrexate is the most popular choice – it is usually used for the first treatment of RA at early stage! Other types are sulfasalazine, leflunomide, and hydroxychloroquine.

Methotrexate may be prescribed with other types of DMARDs. It may also be used alongside other RA medications such as corticosteroids or biologic agents

Diarrhea, sore mouth, loss of appetite, general feeling of illness, hair loss, and headaches are some possible side effects of taking methotrexate.

Your doctor may also need to monitor your liver and lungs, before and after taking the medicine – since methotrexate could affect these organs. But the good news, most people with RA can tolerate it well.

And it is important to take the medicine as well as prescribed, even when you don’t find any improvement. Because it can take a few weeks or months to see a DMARD working!

Furthermore, typically you need to try 2-3 types of DMARDs before eventually you find one that works best.


Biologic agents

These medications are new treatment for RA and they are usually given by injection. They are used to target particular parts of immune system that cause excess inflammation.

There are some types of biologic agents to choose from. These include rituximab, infliximab, golimumab, tocilizumab, certolizumab, etanercept, and adalimumab.

Biologic agents may be used if the use of DMARDs alone is not enough to control the disease. So, they can be used together with DMARDs.

Since they can suppress the function of immune system, they may pose the risk of infections. If you have a personal history of tuberculosis, tell your doctor! Taking a biologic medication for RA may trigger reactivation of infections in patients who have had them in the past.

But in general, the side effects from biologic medications are mild. Other possible side effects include skin irritation (typically at the site where injection is inserted), fever, headaches, or feeling sick.

Early treatment when first diagnosed is so critical for the prognosis of rheumatoid arthritis. For more advice of how your treatment should go, consult more with your doctor!

Along with the prescription medications, some lifestyle approaches and home remedies can help, too. Learn more lifestyle changes to live with RA in this section!

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