Arthritis comes in many forms, and can afflict people of various ages. The varieties of arthritis, although numerous, are generally described as being either rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. Whatever the variety, the relief of pain and inflammation is an important part of treatment. The best arthritis drugs will be whichever ones have the most positive effect on the patient. Because individual responses to drugs vary, and because of the potential for side effects, finding the best arthritis drugs can be a difficult process.
Osteoarthritis is the more common type of arthritis, and results from the overuse of joints, or from too much weight being carried by them. Sports injuries and simple aging can bring on osteoarthritis, as well as being overweight for long periods of time. As the cartilage between bones breaks down, stiffness and pain occur when the joint is moved. The main goal of osteoarthritis treatment is pain relief, which can be accomplished by arthritis drugs from any of a number of categories.
Analgesics are simple pain relievers such as acetaminophen, and these are very common for use as arthritis drugs. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are also common in the treatment of arthritis, and include naproxen and ibuprofen. COX-2 inhibitors are a class of NSAIDs, but are less commonly used.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is different from osteoarthritis in that it is an autoimmune disease, rather than just a wearing out of the joints. However, it is also possible to suffer from both types of arthritis concurrently. For reasons which remain unclear to doctors, the joints are almost the only area affected by RA. This malfunctioning of the immune system can cause greater damage to the joints than osteoarthritis, as well as other symptoms than pain, such as fevers, loss of appetite, and fatigue.
Persistently swollen joints are also common with RA, and often occur in symmetrical patterns. In other words, if one hand is affected, the other one will be as well. RA can also adversely affect the heart and lungs, and cause skin rashes. Because of the difference in symptoms and causes between osteoarthritis and RA, different arthritis drugs are employed in the treatment of RA. For instance, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are specially adapted to be able to treat RA by changing the course of the inflammation, and sometimes stopping its progression.
For best results, DMARDs must be used early on and aggressively, since they can take months to work. Corticosteroids, often simply called steroids, can quickly reduce swelling and inflammation in the joints and elsewhere. However, they are very potent and can cause serious side effects if used for too long or at too high a dosage. Consulting with a medical professional is the best way for individuals to determine which arthritis drugs are best for their situations.