There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The goals of treatment are to slow down the disease, decrease pain and inflammation, maintain joint function, and minimize joint damage and complications. Treatment will vary from person to person and may be adjusted over time.
In addition to getting appropriate rest and exercise and avoiding stress on the affected joints, people with RA may take some medications. These can include analgesics (pain relievers), anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce pain and inflammation, corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) to help slow the course of the disease, and biologic response modifiers to help reduce inflammation and damage to the joints. Immunosuppressants may also be prescribed.
Treatment often involves taking more than one drug and should be started as soon as possible to minimize permanent joint damage. Those affected should work with their rheumatologist and their primary care physician to coordinate their care over time and to take advantage of new treatments as they become available.
If medications are unsuccessful, surgery to repair joints that have been damaged may be indicated.