Corticosteroids may be recommended for certain types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Depending on the type of arthritis, these medications are given by mouth and/or injection. Corticosteroids are used to relieve inflammation and reduce swelling, redness, itching, and allergic reactions. Side effects can include:
- Increased appetite
Prior to taking any corticosteroid, let your doctor know if you have:
- A fungal infection
- A history of tuberculosis
- Underactive thyroid
- Herpes simplex of the eye
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Stomach ulcers.
Some examples of corticosteroids that are commonly used as medications for arthritis include methylprednisolone (Depo-Medrol®, Medrol®) and prednisone.
Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs)
DMARDs are common arthritis drugs used for a number of different types. They relieve painful, swollen joints and slow down joint damage; several DMARDs may be used over the course of the disease. They take a few weeks or months to have an effect, and may produce significant improvements for many people. Exactly how they work is still unknown.
Side effects vary with each medicine. DMARDs may increase the risk of infections, hair loss, and kidney or liver damage. By having a doctor monitor your progress, the risks of toxicities can be weighed against the potential benefits of individual medications.
Some examples of DMARDs include:
- Azathioprine (Imuran®)
- Cyclosporine (Gengraf®, Neoral®, Sandimmune®)
- Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil®)
- Gold sodium thiomalate
- Leflunomide (Arava®)
- Methotrexate (Rheumatrex®)
- Sulfasalazine (Azulfidine®).
(Click Rheumatoid Arthritis Medication to read more about DMARDs.)