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Arthritis Drugs - Is the Cure Worse Than the Disease?



May 16, 2007

Wendy Owen

Research is always ongoing into new and better medications for arthritis which is a very good thing. But where is all this leading us?

Of course we need effective pain medication for arthritis to enable sufferers to live normal lives. But are all these expensive medications controlling the disease or simply masking the symptoms?

Here’s a “quick and dirty” lowdown on what’s currently available both “over the counter” (OTC) and on prescription only.

For mild cases of arthritis -

Some milder cases of arthritis never make it into the doctor’s surgery. Indeed the sufferer might not even be aware that they are suffering from arthritis at all. They may be feeling a few “aches and pains” which they put down to old age or even the cold damp weather.

That may be all well and good, but even OTC medications can be dangerous if taken over a long period of time. The concept of “more is better” can also happen if the pain gradually becomes worse. This can lead to serious side effects.

OTC medications include aspirin and ibuprofen. These medications can cause intestinal bleeding and kidney damage in large doses. Aspirin also destroys vitamin C in the body leading to lower immunity.

For More Advanced Arthritis-

By this stage most people have consulted their doctor. Prescription medication at this stage normally consists of the Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDS. These do target the pain and inflammation of arthritis symptoms but have a range of side effects including stomach upset, abdominal pain, and ulcers.

People with high blood pressure, those with kidney problems and especially people who have heart problems are especially at risk with NSAIDS.

Enter the COX-2 inhibitors. These have been designed for people whose stomach problems cannot tolerate the above. Unfortunately the risks remain for chest pain, heart attack and stroke victims.






For Advanced Arthritis-

For those suffering extreme pain and swelling the medical profession brings out the heavy artillery - Corticosteroids. These drugs contain man made cortisone and can be injected directly into the affected joints or taken orally.

Long term use of these can produce sleep problems, weight gain, osteoporosis and loss of immunity. Also available to those for whom nothing else seems to work are Biologic Response Modifiers (Biologics). Biologics are derived from live sources, plants and animals and are not manufactured chemically. They are mainly used for sufferers of Rheumatoid Arthritis and are given intravenously or by injection. They can’t be taken in tablet form.

Biologics suppress the immune system which leaves people prone to infections. They are also very expensive and can’t be stored without freezing.

Also available mainly to Rheumatoid Arthritis sufferers are Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDS) These work by stopping the immune system from attacking the joints. DMARDS may take up to three months to reduce symptoms but they do help to stop joint damage even though they can’t repair any previous damage.

Although these drugs are a boon to many, they work mainly at masking the symptoms of arthritis and can’t reverse the damage already caused. Most people thinks this is impossible, it isn‘t!

Natural treatments for arthritis do exist and can significantly stop some cases of arthritis, relieve pain and inflammation and in some cases, reverse joint damage.

Definitely worth a try!

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