The first step in treating arthritis will benefit your overall well-being: losing weight and eating a balanced diet. Excess weight puts a strain on joints that are already stressed by arthritis. A well-balanced diet can help suppress inflammation and strengthen bones, so Omega 3 fatty acids naturally found in fish and tofu should be part of your diet, as well as vitamin D for the bones. Vitamin C has been shown to slow the progression of osteoarthritis, an age-related loss of joint cartilage that is also called degenerative arthritis. Swimming is a good cardiovascular activity that is easy on the joints, and can help take off those extra pounds, as well.
Over-the-counter products can help in pain management.
Standard treatments include topical gels to relieve discomfort, and topical analgesics that contain salicylates, like those in aspirin, which are absorbed into the skin. Medications that reduce inflammation are called NSAIDs, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs lower the levels of prostaglandins, which cause inflammation in the body. NSAIDs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, used to be standard initial treatment for arthritis. However, it is now known that in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disease, the most serious damage occurs in the first three years. Stronger drugs, called DMARDs, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, are now used early on to limit this damage. This class of drugs suppresses the immune system in a way that is not completely understood. DMARDs, such as methotrexate and sulfasalazine, are effective treatments for RA that can reduce the amount of damage to the joints.
Gout, another form of arthritis that is caused by excess uric acid, can be treated with allopurinol, a drug that prevents the development of uric acid. Nutritional supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin, and alternative therapies, such as meditation and acupuncture, may also offer some benefits. Recent advances in nonsurgical treatments include biologics, a therapy using altered genes to target the immune system, and cartilage cell transplants.