A Guide to Good Health

How A Rheumatologist Might Treat Your Arthritis

If your family doctor suspects or confirms that you have rheumatoid arthritis, they might send you to a rheumatologist for specialized care. Early treatment is helpful in slowing the progression of RA and even to send symptoms into remission. Here are some types of treatment a rheumatologist might suggest.

Prescription Medications

Your doctor might try anti-inflammatory medications, including over-the-counter drugs, to relieve swelling and joint pain. A corticosteroid might be prescribed when you're having a flare-up and severe joint pain. Other medications target your immune system. One approach for treating rheumatoid arthritis is called "treat to target." This requires you to make frequent visits to the doctor for medication adjustments until the desired or best outcome is achieved.

This is a more aggressive type of treatment where your condition is tested, evaluated, and treated with the goal to put your symptoms in remission when you're newly diagnosed with RA. However, this aggressive treatment can also be done if you have established rheumatoid arthritis. By starting treatment as soon as possible, damage to your joints is limited. That helps you maintain your mobility and function for longer and it reduces your pain.

Physical And Occupational Therapy

Your doctor might also send you to physical therapy for treatment. You'll learn exercises that strengthen your muscles and help keep you flexible. Improving your physical condition is important when you have RA since your mobility will be affected by the joint damage. Occupational therapy may be necessary when you have joint damage and pain that make it difficult to do simple things like open a jar or close a button.

An occupational therapist can evaluate your needs and teach you ways to adapt so you can continue to care for yourself even if you don't have strength or flexibility in your hands due to joint disease. This might include using adaptive equipment that makes your life easier.

Joint Surgery

If your joint damage becomes bad enough, and medications no longer help, your doctor might recommend joint surgery to replace damaged tissues. If your condition is managed well and treatment is started early, you may never need surgery, but when it's necessary, it can reduce pain and improve joint movement.

It's important to follow your rheumatologist's instructions for taking medications and self-care so you have the best outcome. You may be encouraged to improve your diet and drop bad habits such as smoking to keep your health in good shape and reduce inflammation. By following your doctor's advice, you'll have the best chance of living well with rheumatoid arthritis and possibly even send your symptoms into remission for long periods of time. Visit a rheumatology office like Sarasota Arthritis Center to learn more.