Medication & Arthritis

Medication & Arthritis


Hello I’m Wendy Holden and I’m a
consultant rheumatologist and medical advisor to Arthritis Action. People with
arthritis can sometimes manage their symptoms without any medication at all
but most people will have either tried over-the-counter medicines or have been
prescribed medicines to help with the pain and stiffness of arthritis at some
time there are many different types of medicines used for arthritis and people
are often confused about what medicines they should take if any the most
important thing to remember is that if a medicine is not working you can stop it
there’s no point taking something just because a doctor has told you that you
should if it’s not actually working firstly anti-inflammatory drugs or what
are also called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or
NSAIDs for short these include over-the-counter medicines
such as ibuprofen or prescribed medicines like naproxen or diclofenac
all of these anti-inflammatories are effective in reducing pain and stiffness
but they can have many side effects these include ulcers and bleeding from
the gut high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart attack and
stroke if they used for too long they can also trigger asthma in people who
are sensitive to them guidelines suggest that these medicines should be used for
a shorter time as possible and they should be taken with another type of
tablet called a proton pump inhibitor such as omeprazole to help prevent
stomach problems including ulcers anti-inflammatory medicines also come as
creams or gels which can be rubbed into painful joints these can be extremely
effective for some joint pains and stiffness and they are much safer than
taking anti-inflammatory tablets by mouth next pain-killing medicines
anti-inflammatory medicines are very effective pain killers but when doctors
talk about pain killers they usually mean either simple pain killers such as
paracetamol or stronger pain killers such as codeine tramadol or morphine
based drugs which are all called opioids simple and
strong painkillers can be very effective for acute pain such as a toothache or
pain after surgery or cancer pain but they are not very effective at all for
chronic pain such as the pain of arthritis although they’re still very
often prescribed as they are not very effective pain specialists are no longer
recommending these medicines for chronic musculoskeletal pain unless they happen
to be very effective for certain individuals in addition opioids are
extremely addictive and have many side effects some of which can be even worse
than the original pain opioids are also very dangerous if taken in excessive
amounts and they can affect driving and safety capsaicin cream is a type of rub
on medicine that can be effective for pain due to nerve damage and can help
certain joints affected by osteoarthritis this cream is made from
chili peppers so it can cause a burning feeling in the skin but otherwise it’s
safe to use and has very few side effects medicines called steroids or
corticosteroids are sometimes used to reduce pain and swelling in joints
affected by osteoarthritis or inflammatory arthritis these can be
given by injection directly into a joint in osteoarthritis or inflammatory
arthritis or as tablets or as an injection into muscles for people with
inflammatory arthritis they are safe and they can be very effective if used for
short periods but a harmful if used as tablets for long periods so their
usefulness is limited disease modifying or DMARD drugs are used in
inflammatory arthritis to influence the immune system and will improve stiffness
swelling and joint damage these drugs include methotrexate and sulfasalazine
and they are prescribed by a hospital specialist only regular blood test
monitoring is needed for people to say King disease modifying drugs biologic
drugs are medicines that are usually given by injection for people with
severe inflammatory arthritis after other medicines have not worked these
can only be prescribed by a hospital specialist
and they are extremely expensive so their use is restricted to those who
have the most severe types of arthritis

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