The Arthritis Foundation names over a hundred different diseases, all causing the same two common symptoms – pain and swelling in the joints and surrounding connective tissue.
Collectively known as “arthritis,” such diseases are known to affect an estimated 40 million people in America. But a recent study, the latest comprehensive statistical survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) raises the notch even higher with an estimate of 70 million people in the United States who report arthritis or chronic joint symptoms.
Fortunately for these people, they are not without arthritis medications to help them cope with the disease. Just as there are over a hundred different types of arthritis so are there over a hundred different kinds of arthritis medications. All of them treat arthritis and related conditions in a specific way – treat the pain, halt disease progression, reduce inflammation, etc.
The response, side effects, and adverse reactions to these arthritis medications vary from individual patient to another. That is why it is important for the patient to be knowledgeable about arthritis medications from determining what their options are to making informed decisions with the help of their doctors.
Below are profiles of arthritis medications in common usage today:
NSAIDs are Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs that are commonly prescribed as arthritis medications for patients suffering joint pains and rheumatic conditions. Specifically, these arthritis medications work as analgesics (or pain killing), anti inflammatory, and antipyretic or fever reducing.
The drugs’ main target is cyclooxygenase, the enzyme that catalyzes arachidonic acid to prostaglandins and leukotrienes. When the membrane phospholipids of our cells are exposed to inflammatory stimuli, they release arachidonic acid which is then catalyzed by cyclooxygenase into prostaglandins. This creates the biological response of inflammation.
By interfering with the prostaglandin production and inhibiting the release of cycooxygenase, NSAIDs can prevent inflammatory response, a common symptom of arthritis.
Unlike NSAIDs, BRMs or Biologic Response Modifiers are arthritis medications that stimulate, not inhibit, the ability of the immune system to fight arthritis and rheumatic diseases. These arthritis medications are based on compounds that are manufactured by the body’s living cells, such as monoclonal antibodies, interferon, interleukin-2, and various types of colony-stimulating factors.
BRMs are slower acting compared to NSAIDs but if applied properly, they could be effective in halting disease progression.
Otherwise known as Disease Modifying Anti Rheumatic Drugs, DMARDs are actually immunosuppressants – that is, they suppress the response of a defective immune system as is the case of patients suffering from rheumatic arthritis. They are used as second line arthritis medications specifically for rheumatic arthritis, one of the common forms of arthritis if NSAIDs and aspirin fail.
Although these arthritis medications have been used to decrease inflammation, they are not categorized under anti inflammatory drugs. They do not affect prostaglandin production, unlike NSAIDs, however, they do relieve pain and inflammation by “modifying” the immune system in some way. As such, these arthritis medications thus help in slowing the disease process though they seldom lead to a complete remission.
There are, of course, several more arthritis medications that will help arthritis patients cope with their condition. The ones featured above are the most common and easily recognizable out of the hundreds out there.