Fact: Treatments for rheumatoid arthritis have improved greatly over the last 20 years, and early treatment can help prevent arthritis progression.
“People think they will become dependent on others to perform simple daily life tasks like dressing and brushing teeth,” says Matteson. “This is not the fate shared by the vast majority of patients who have been properly treated very soon after the onset of their symptoms.”
Studies show that early treatment can stave off symptoms and reduce damage to joints, allowing more patients to avoid joint surgery than in the past. “Early treatments like disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs like methotrexate and others including biologics can be appropriate,” says Matteson. “They reduce the need for joint surgeries in the long term and enhance quality of life.”
These drugs can have serious side effects, however, so patients must be closely monitored. Such medications are typically prescribed in conjunction with anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or aspirin, along with strengthening exercise and rest.