Video Q & A:

RA Medication Basics

Question:

How long will it take for my RA medication to start working?

Expert:   Linda Russell, MD, Hospital for Special Surgery »

Depending on the RA medication, you might have to wait two weeks to two months to feel pain relief. Find out how long the most common drugs take to kick in.

Transcript: There are several types of drugs that are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and ease the pain it causes. For short-term, but quick relief, over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS, such as ibuprofen and naproxen sodium, can ease inflammation, swelling and discomfort around your joints. Note that these medications only relieve short-term pain, but do nothing to treat the condition. If over-the-counter varieties are not strong enough, you may get a prescription NSAID or a cox-2 inhibitor such as celecoxib, which also is a fast-acting anti-inflammatory drug. They all have side effects, including gastrointestinal and cardiovascular problems, so talk with your doctor about the benefits and the risks. Corticosteroids are another type of fast-acting pain reliever – but like NSAIDs, they only relieve pain, and do not treat rheumatoid arthritis. Prednisone, prednisolone and methyprednisolone all ease inflammation and pain for longer than NSAIDs, but because of their side effects are only used for short-term treatment. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, or DMARDs, are the only medications that work to change the course of rheumatoid arthritis and prevent joint damage. Both traditional DMARDs and the more recent biologics may take 4 to 8 weeks to take full effect. They are often taken WITH NSAIDs or corticosteroids initially so that you have pain relief until they can start working fully. For more on how to treat rheumatoid arthritis, look for other videos in this series. More »

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