What are arthritis medications?
Arthritis medications are drugs prescribed for the management of arthritis, a painful condition that primarily affects joints. Some arthritis medications relieve symptoms of the disease, while others slow down or stop its progression, and prevent permanent damage and deformity of the joint.
Treatment for certain types of arthritis may include medications that treat the underlying cause, such as antibiotics for infectious arthritis or medications to reduce uric acid levels in the case of gout, a type of arthritis.
Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are an important category of medications in treating certain types of arthritis-related autoimmune disorders.
DMARDs work at the cellular level to treat the underlying cause of arthritis. Several biologic and nonbiologic DMARDs have been developed, and each class of drugs works in a unique way to retard or stop the course of the disease.
What is arthritis?
The term “arthritis” means joint inflammation. Arthritis is a disease that affects joints, muscles, bones, and structures around the joints such as cartilage, ligaments, and tendons. Arthritis is a broad term that refers to more than 100 types of diseases that affect the musculoskeletal system.
Types of arthritis
Osteoarthritis is degenerative arthritis and the most common type. Joints have a rubbery tissue known as cartilage that acts as a cushion between the bones in the joint. When the cartilage degenerates, the bones start rubbing against each other and the joint gets inflamed.
Age, excess weight, and previous injury are all risk factors for developing degenerative arthritis. Bone loss (osteoporosis), especially in menopausal women, can worsen the condition. Osteoarthritis can be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, and taking care to avoid injury and activities with a repetitive motion that can overstress a joint.
Inflammatory arthritis is caused by autoimmune disorders, in which the body’s own immune system goes haywire and attacks the joints, causing persistent inflammation. Inflammatory types of arthritis can eventually affect other organs such as the eyes, skin, heart, lungs, and kidneys. Examples of inflammatory arthritis include:
Ankylosing spondylitis: A form of arthritis that affects the spine.
Infectious arthritis is caused by a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection that enters the joint, or by a heightened immune reaction to an infection in another part of the body. Timely treatment with antibiotics is usually effective for infectious arthritis, but sometimes it may turn chronic. Some of the types of infectious arthritis are:
- Septic arthritis: Septic arthritis is caused by infection from a wound or nearby bone entering the joint space, most often from Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.
- Reactive arthritis: Reactive arthritis is both infectious and inflammatory, caused by autoimmune hyperactivity triggered by an infection in another part of the body. Common infections that cause reactive arthritis include:
Metabolic arthritis is the result of a metabolic disorder, and gout is a typical example. Gout is caused when excess uric acid builds up in the body and forms needle-like crystals in the joint causing episodes of extreme pain.
Uric acid is a metabolic byproduct from the breakdown of a substance known as purine, present in many foods. Uric acid is normally excreted by the kidneys and bowels.
Symptoms of arthritis
Can arthritis be cured?
There is no permanent cure for chronic arthritis. Timely treatment of the underlying condition with appropriate medications can completely resolve some types of arthritis such as gout and septic arthritis. To a great extent, osteoarthritis can be prevented or effectively controlled by adopting healthy lifestyle habits.
Medications cannot cure inflammatory arthritis, but early treatment is vital to retard or halt further progression of the disease and prevent permanent joint damage, deformity, and disability. Some of the advanced generations of medications can greatly improve the chances of remission.
Other therapies that can help in managing chronic arthritis include:
- Physical therapy
- Splints or other aids
- Surgical therapies such as
- Joint repair
- Joint fusion
- Joint replacement
What are the types of arthritis medications?
Arthritis medication regimens depend upon the diagnosis of the precise type of arthritis. Some types of medications that relieve pain and reduce inflammation are commonly used for all types of arthritis. These medications, however, do not alter the course of the disease.
Medications used for symptom relief from arthritis include the following:
- Analgesics (painkillers)
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
In addition to the pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications, the disease-specific medications that are prescribed include:
- Antimicrobial medications for infectious arthritis
- Medications for bone loss (osteoporosis) and joint lubrication in osteoarthritis
- Medications to lower uric acid in gout
- Medications for fibromyalgia
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) for inflammatory and chronic reactive arthritis, which include:
- Nonbiologic DMARDs
- Biologic DMARDs
Latest Arthritis News
Daily Health News
How do arthritis medications work?
Symptom relief medications
Symptom relief medications relieve joint pain and reduce inflammation and swelling. These medications do not prevent disease progression or joint damage.
Non-opioid analgesics are useful for relieving moderate pain but opioids may be more effective for severe pain. Opioids are potent analgesics, but also carry a high risk for addiction. Some analgesics are available over the counter but stronger medications generally require a prescription.
- Fentanyl (Duragesic)
- Hydrocodone bitartrate (Hysingla ER, Zohydro ER)
- Hydromorphone hydrochloride (Dilaudid)
- Meperidine hydrochloride (Demerol)
- Methadone hydrochloride
- Morphine sulfate (MS Contin)
- Oxycodone hydrochloride (Oxycontin, Roxicodone)
- Oxymorphone hydrochloride
- Tapentadol hydrochloride (Nucynta)
Combination opioid drugs
- Acetaminophen/codeine (Tylenol 3, Tylenol 4)
- Acetaminophen/hydrocodone (Norco)
- Acetaminophen/oxycodone (Percocet, Roxicet)
- Aspirin/oxycodone (Percodan)
Topical pain relief
The following over-the-counter analgesic creams and pain patches may provide pain relief:
- Methyl salicylate (Salonpas)
- Capsaicin (Zostrix cream, Qutenza pain patch)
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs reduce swelling, inflammation, and pain by blocking the production of inflammatory chemicals. These drugs do not prevent the progression of the disease or joint damage. Anti-inflammatory drugs include:
- Celecoxib (Celebrex)
- Diclofenac sodium (Voltaren)
- Fenoprofen calcium (Nalfon)
- Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
- Indomethacin (Indocin)
- Meclofenamate sodium
- Meloxicam (Mobic)
- Naproxen sodium (Naprosyn, Aleve, Anaprox DS)
- Oxaprozin (Daypro)
- Piroxicam (Feldene)
- Tolmetin sodium
Corticosteroids are more potent anti-inflammatory drugs than NSAIDs, but long-term use can cause severe adverse effects that include bone thinning and immunosuppression. Corticosteroids include:
- Prednisolone (Prelone)
- Methylprednisolone (Medrol, Depo-Medrol, Solu-Medrol)
- Cortisone acetate
- Hydrocortisone (Cortef)
- Betamethasone (Celestone)
- Fludrocortisone acetate
- Triamcinolone (Kenalog, Aristospan)
Disease-specific medications treat the underlying conditions that cause arthritis and are taken in addition to medications for symptom relief.
Antimicrobial agents prescribed will depend on the type of organism causing the infection in infectious arthritis. Typically, broad-spectrum antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections, which are the most common cause of infectious arthritis. Some of the commonly used antibiotics include:
Medications that help prevent bone loss include:
One of the medications used for osteoarthritis is a substitute lubricant for a component of synovial fluid, which is the natural lubricant in joints. The FDA-approved medication specifically for injection into knee joints is:
Gout medications reduce the uric acid level in the blood and prevent gout flares. Gout medications include:
Antidepressants used to treat fibromyalgia include the following:
- Citalopram hydrobromide (Celexa)
- Venlafaxine hydrochloride (Effexor XR)
- Fluoxetine hydrochloride (Prozac)
- Fluvoxamine maleate (Luvox)
- Paroxetine hydrochloride (Paxil)
- Sertraline hydrochloride (Zoloft)
- Amitriptyline hydrochloride
- Imipramine hydrochloride (Tofranil)
- Nortriptyline hydrochloride (Pamelor)
Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs stop or slow down the progression of arthritis. DMARDs are a mainstay treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and other types of arthritis caused by autoimmune disorders. DMARDs are also used for reactive arthritis that becomes chronic.
Each DMARD works uniquely at the cellular level to prevent the immune system from causing inflammation. DMARD therapy takes up to six months to be fully effective. DMARDS are immunosuppressive, and long-term use can result in immune deficiency and a higher risk for infections.
Nonbiologic DMARDs are synthetic proteins produced in the laboratory. Common nonbiologic DMARDs include:
- Methotrexate (Trexall, Otrexup)
- Azathioprine (Imuran)
- Auranofin (Ridaura)
- Chloroquine phosphate
- Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan)
- Cyclosporine (Neoral)
- Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil)
- Leflunomide (Arava)
- Minocycline hydrochloride (Minocin)
- Mycophenolate mofetil (CellCept)
- Penicillamine (Cuprimine)
- Sulfasalazine (Azulfidine)
Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors are the latest type of synthetic DMARDs developed to treat inflammatory arthritis. JAK inhibitors block the activity of JAK enzymes which stimulate the immune system’s pro-inflammatory activity. JAK inhibitors include:
Biologic DMARDs are proteins known as monoclonal antibodies that are genetically engineered in a laboratory. Biologics are more difficult to produce, more expensive, and used as second-line treatment if nonbiologic drugs like methotrexate are not sufficiently effective. Biologic DMARDs include:
- Etanercept (Enbrel)
- Infliximab (Remicade)
- Adalimumab (Humira)
- Certolizumab pegol (Cimzia)
- Golimumab (Simponi, Simponi Aria)
- Abatacept (Orencia)
- Anakinra (Kineret)
- Rituximab (Rituxan)
- Tocilizumab (Actemra)
- Sarilumab (Kevzara)
Experimental DMARD therapies
Warning: The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) recommends that before undergoing DMARD therapy, patients should get vaccinations for influenza, pneumonia, hepatitis, human papillomavirus, and herpes zoster virus because DMARD medications suppress immunity.
- Please visit our medication section of each drug within its class for more detailed information.
- If your prescription medication isn’t on this list, remember to look on MedicineNet.com drug information or discuss with your healthcare provider and pharmacist.
- It is important to discuss all the drugs you take with your doctor and understand their effects, possible side effects, and interaction with each other.
- Never stop taking your medication and never change your dose or frequency without consulting with your doctor.
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Related Disease Conditions
Which Foods Make Arthritis Worse?
Certain foods can contribute to arthritis joint inflammation, like processed foods high in salt, alcohol, red meat and others. Foods that are good for the joints are beans, greens and other whole foods that have high fiber and nutrient content and low calories; these foods promote weight loss, which improves arthritis symptoms, and some may lower inflammation, generally.
Buildup of uric acid crystals in a joint causes gouty arthritis. Symptoms and signs include joint pain, swelling, heat, and redness, typically of a single joint. Gout may be treated with diet and lifestyle changes, as well as medication.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints, the tissue around the joints, as well as other organs in the body. Because it can affect multiple other organs of the body, rheumatoid arthritis is referred to as a systemic illness and is sometimes called rheumatoid disease. The 16 characteristic early RA signs and symptoms include the following. Anemia Both sides of the body affected (symmetric) Depression Fatigue Fever Joint deformity Joint pain Joint redness Joint stiffness Joint swelling Joint tenderness Joint warmth Limping Loss of joint function Loss of joint range of motion Many joints affected (polyarthritis)
16 Early Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Symptoms and Signs
Early RA symptoms and signs vary differently from person to person. The most common body parts that are initially affected by RA include the small joints of the hands, wrists, and feet, and the knees and hip joints. Joint inflammation causes stiffness. Warmth, redness, and pain may vary in degree.
Arthritis (Joint Inflammation)
Arthritis is inflammation of one or more joints. When joints are inflamed they can develop stiffness, warmth, swelling, redness and pain. There are over 100 types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, gout, and pseudogout.
Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis caused by inflammation, breakdown, and eventual loss of cartilage in the joints. Also known as degenerative arthritis, osteoarthritis can be caused by aging, heredity, and injury from trauma or disease.
14 Early Signs of Arthritis in the Legs
Leg arthritis affects the joints of the hips, knees, ankles or feet. The early signs and symptoms of arthritis in the legs include pain, swelling, stiffness, decreased range of motion, trouble walking, fever, bump-like swelling and other symptoms.
Septic arthritis, or infectious arthritis, is infection of one or more joints by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Symptoms and signs of septic arthritis include fever, joint pain, chills, swelling, redness, warmth, and stiffness. Treatment involves antibiotics and the drainage of the infected joint.
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Psoriatic arthritis is a disease that causes skin and joint inflammation. Symptoms and signs include painful, stiff, and swollen joints, tendinitis, and organ inflammation. Treatment involves anti-inflammatory medications and exercise.
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Reactive arthritis is a chronic, systemic rheumatic disease characterized by three conditions, including conjunctivitis, joint inflammation, and genital, urinary, or gastrointestinal system inflammation. Inflammation leads to pain, swelling, warmth, redness, and stiffness of the affected joints. Non-joint areas may experience irritation and pain. Treatment for reactive arthritis depends on which area of the body is affected. Joint inflammation is treated with anti-inflammatory medications.
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Hand arthritis occurs when there is inflammation in one or more joints of the hand and wrist. A few of the common types of arthritis that affect the hands are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, post-traumatic arthritis (arthritis as a result of an injury), psoriatic arthritis and gout.
Fungal arthritis is inflammation of a joint by a fungus that has invaded the body and is growing in the normally sterile joint. Fungal arthritis symptoms and signs include pain, redness, loss of range of motion, and swelling. Fungal arthritis treatment includes antibiotics, adequate drainage of the joint, and sometimes surgery.
Osteoarthritis vs. Osteoporosis Differences and Similarities
Arthritis is defined as painful inflammation and joint stiffness. Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis and the most common cause of chronic joint pain, affecting over 25 million Americans. Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis that involves the entire joint. Osteoporosis is not a type of arthritis. It is a disease that mainly is caused by a loss of bone tissue that is not limited to the joint areas. It is possible for one person to have both osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. The differences in the signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis and osteoporosis include; pain, stiffness, and joint swelling, joint deformity, crackle sounds when the joint is moving, and walking with a limp. Osteoporosis is called the "silent disease" because it can progress for years without signs and symptoms before it is diagnosed, severe back pain, bone fractures, height loss, and difficulty or inability to walk. The differences in the causes of osteoarthritis and osteoporosis are that osteoarthritis usually is caused by wear and tear on the joints. Osteoporosis usually is caused by one or more underlying problems, for example, calcium and vitamin D deficiencies. Treatment for osteoarthritis and osteoporosis are not the same. There is no cure for osteoarthritis or osteoporosis.
11 Home Remedies for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a long-term disorder that progressively affects many parts of the body. Home remedies, diet, and lifestyle changes can help reduce pain and discomfort associated with RA alongside medical treatment. Home remedies alone cannot effectively treat RA or prevent the progression of the disease.
Rheumatoid Arthritis vs. Arthritis
Arthritis is a general term used to describe joint disease. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a type of arthritis in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the joints, causing chronic inflammation.
17 Early Signs of Arthritis in the Back
Arthritis in the back arises due to the inflammation of facet joints in the spine or sacroiliac joints between the spine and the pelvis. Some of the early signs of arthritis in the back include back pain, stiffness, swelling, bone grinding, loss of flexibility, fatigue, muscle spasms and other symptoms.
Early Signs and Symptoms of Arthritis in Knuckles
Pain, swelling, and tenderness are usually considered as early signs and symptoms of knuckle arthritis. Tiny bumps pop out on the top knuckles of some of the fingers, and fingers become stiff.
Early Signs of Arthritis in the Feet
There are more than 30 joints in the ankle and feet. Arthritis can affect one or multiple joints in the feet. Excess weight, hereditary tendencies, old injuries, and poor footwear are a few predisposing factors of arthritis.
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA)
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) annually affects one child in every thousand. There are six types of JRA. Treatment of juvenile arthritis depends upon the type the child has and should focus on treating the symptoms that manifest.
Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Be Caused by Stress?
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory joint condition and an autoimmune disease. At times, treatment can make rheumatoid arthritis symptoms (pain and swelling) disappear for a while. This symptom-free period is referred to as “remission.” A remission is followed by the reappearance of symptoms and this period is known as a flare-up. Research says that rheumatoid arthritis can be caused by stress.
Arthritis in Knee: 4 Stages of Osteoarthritis
Painful joint swelling is called arthritis. Osteoarthritis is due to wear and tear of the joints over many years. Arthritis maye develop in any joint, including the fingers, hips and knees. Usually, patients with arthritis feel pain in their joints even after moderate movements. There are four stages of osteoarthritis of the knee.
How Serious Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disorder that typically affects the joints and other body parts, such as the skin, eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels. RA is an autoimmune disorder, a condition where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. If not diagnosed early and appropriately treated, RA can lead to permanent deformities, disabilities and serious systemic complications.
Early Signs of Arthritis in the Fingers
The earliest signs of arthritis are pain, swelling and stiffness. If these symptoms are experienced in the fingers, it is likely because of rheumatoid arthritis. The signs and symptoms of arthritis in the fingers include popping sounds, joint deformity, warmth, mucus cysts and bone spurs.
What Are the Four Stages of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease characterized by pain and inflammation in joints, typically of the hands and feet. It is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system of the body attacks its own healthy cells, resulting in inflammation of the membrane lining the joints and damage to joint tissue.
Early Signs of Arthritis in the Knee
Arthritis refers to the redness and swelling of the joints. It usually develops slowly over 10 to 15 years, interfering with daily life activities. Knowing the early signs of arthritis can help you take appropriate treatment and incorporate modifications in your diet and lifestyle.
Early Signs of Arthritis in Shoulder
Early signs and symptoms of arthritis in the shoulder include pain in the shoulder joint that's worse when lifting heavy objects, pain that radiates down the arm and shoulder joint sounds like grinding, clicking, and crackling.
Safest Rheumatoid Arthritis Drugs During Pregnancy
None of the drugs used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is completely safe during pregnancy. You must discuss with your physician regarding the decision to use, modify, or stop any medications.
Breastfeeding With Rheumatoid Arthritis
You can breastfeed your baby even if you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, you must always consult your doctor before you start the process.
Osteoarthritis vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis
Osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are chronic joint disorders. RA is also an autoimmune disease. OA and RA symptoms and signs include joint pain, warmth, and tenderness. Over-the-counter pain relievers treat both diseases. There are several prescription medications that treat RA.
What Is the Most Common Cause of Septic Arthritis in Kids?
Septic arthritis can be caused by bacterial, fungal or viral infections. Staphylococcus aureus, a type of bacteria, is the most common cause of septic arthritis in infants. Septic arthritis is a general term for any joint pain caused by infection of the joint.
Will Psoriatic Arthritis Cripple Me?
Psoriatic arthritis is a long-standing inflammatory disorder that affects three out of every 10 people with psoriasis. It cannot be cured, but some treatments may prevent it from worsening. There is no way to predict whose psoriatic arthritis may destroy their joints.
Non-Radiographic Axial Spondyloarthritis (nr-axSpA)
Non-radiographic spondyloarthritis (nr-axSpA) is an inflammatory arthritis that mainly affects the joints of the spine. Morning stiffness and back pain are the usual symptoms of nr-axSpA. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, exercise, and biologics are treatments for nr-axSpA.
Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Affect Pregnancy?
Yes, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects pregnancy. RA can lead to complications like preterm birth, raised blood pressure (preeclampsia), and low birth weight babies.
Early Signs of Arthritis in the Wrist
Wrist arthritis is inflammation (swelling) of one or more joints of the wrist. Wrist arthritis is long-lasting or permanent and eventually causes severe joint damage. The early signs of arthritis in the wrist include morning stiffness, redness, tenderness, pain, swelling, weakness, warmth and other symptoms.
Are People With Rheumatoid Arthritis Higher Risk for COVID-19?
Individuals with RA have poor immune responses because of the disease itself and the medications they are on. This puts them at a higher-than-average risk of COVID-19 infection and complications.
Quackery of Arthritis
Arthritis patients are sometimes vulnerable to quackery (the business of promoting unproven remedies). These "quick fix" treatments are promoted as cure-alls, but they really have no right to such claims. Consumers should be wary of products that have marketing claims like "will cure," "ancient remedy," "has no side effects," and "revolutionary new scientific breakthrough." Read about arthritis remedies and tests that have no scientific proof of benefits.
Do Steroids Help With Arthritis?
Arthritis is the inflammation of one or more joints in the body. The disease is one of the most common chronic health conditions in the United States. Steroids are a class of drugs that reduce inflammation and have a suppressing effect on the immune system.
Early Signs and Symptoms of Arthritis in Thumb
The earliest sign and symptom of thumb arthritis is pain, swelling, and tenderness with activities that involve pinching action. The pain may be dull, achy, or sharp at the base of the thumb. The pain can occur when we grip, grasp, or pinch an object or use the thumb to apply force.
Osteoarthritis and Treatment
Painful swelling of the joints due to wear and tear over many years is called osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis may develop in any joint that includes the fingers, hips, and knees. There are many treatment options available to curb the complications of arthritis.
What Is the Main Cause of Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic degenerative disease of the joints affecting middle-aged and elderly people. It involves the breakdown of cartilage and associated inflammatory changes in the adjacent bone. It is a leading cause of chronic disability, affecting 30 million people in the United States alone.
Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder (the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own cells). Certain factors increase the risk of RA.
Treatment & Diagnosis
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