How Do I Choose The Best Arthritis Medicine?
Are you spending a fortune on prescription arthritis medicines? Are they helping? Are you concerned about side effects? You may think a particular drug is a miraculous godsend. Yet, someone you know may take the same dose only to experience little relief and life-threatening side effects. All of the choices can be confusing.
The best treatment for your arthritis is based on your needs. Making the diagnosis of "osteoarthritis" is fairly straightforward, but deciding what to do about it is a complex and very individualized matter. There's a wide range of options available to help you deal with OA; medicines are only part of the picture:
- The Basics: Weight Management / Exercise / Education / Modify Activities
- Medications: Pain Relievers, NSAIDs (like ibuprofen), Supplements
- Injections/ Bracing
The highest dose of the latest, "greatest" arthritis medicine on the market will NOT help unless you follow common-sense health practices. Focus on low-tech/low-cost habits that pay off throughout your body and quality of life. Modify the combination of remedies over your lifetime as symptoms wax and wane. Start simple, and then move to the next step if the first isn't helping. You can cut back during the times you have less pain.
At this point, available medicines can relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis, not cure it. There are some treatments for rheumatoid arthritis that can slow down joint destruction. Scientific research suggests that nutritional supplements, like glucosamine, might strengthen cartilage tissue. Stay tuned!
The dozens of arthritis medications available are categorized by drug class. The drug classes differ in the way your body handles the chemical that makes up the drug, known as the mechanism of action. Different mechanisms of action target different arthritis symptoms: pain vs. stiffness vs. inflammation. If you understand the classes, you will understand:
- how each drug works,
- which drugs are related because they work in a similar way,
- what side effects can occur, and
- why a drug may or may not be right for you.
Beware of your drugs' true cost! "Cost" applies not only to the money you pay for the pills, but also to the toll they could take on your system in terms of side effects like stomach ulcers, kidney failure, addiction, and other problems worth avoiding!
OA is a chronic, degenerative condition that progresses at different rates in different patients (and even in different joints in the same body!) You've got better things to do than let OA rule your day. The right treatment strategy will get you back to the Pursuit of Happiness!
Stephanie E. Siegrist, MD is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon in her 10th year of practice, and author of "Making Sense of Arthritis Medicine." She's one of only 3% of U. S. orthopedic surgeons who are women! Dr. Siegrist strives to bridge the gaps that exist in today's doctor-patient relationship with "Information Therapy!" Complete information about Dr. Siegrist, and the book, are available from her website.