Like exercise, medications are crucial to treating juvenile arthritis. In general, medications are used to reduce inflammation as well as pain, so you’ll be able to move around better. Most people with juvenile arthritis wind up taking more than one medication at a time. These might include pills, liquids and injections, which you can learn to give yourself. Some drugs are given intravenously, or directly into a vein.
- Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) come as pills and liquids. They can reduce pain, swelling and fevers. There are many different kinds, so it may take a while to find one that works. Examples include ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), indomethacin (Indocin), and many others. You can see a full list by clicking here.
- Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs) come as pills, liquid and injections. They can prevent long-term joint damage. They can also relieve pain and reduce inflammation. But don’t expect them to work right away. You have to take them for a few weeks or months before you’ll notice the effects. Examples include methotrexate and cyclophospahmide (Cytoxan). You can see a full list by clicking here.
- Corticosteroids come as pills, liquid and injections. They can also be given intravenously. They are used to ease symptoms fast, like when you are having a flare or when you are waiting for your DMARDs to take full effect. Examples include prednisone and methylprednisolone. You can see a full list by clicking here.
- Biologics come as injections and can also be given intravenously. They stop juvenile arthritis from creating symptoms by treating the immune system itself. They slow or stop the body from attacking its own tissue. Examples include etanercept (Enbrel) and adalimumab (Humira). You can see a full list by clicking here.
- Analgesics come as pills and liquid. They do not reduce inflammation, but they can reduce pain. Examples include acetaminophen (Tylenol) and tramadol (Ultram). You can see a full list by clicking here.
Medications used to treat juvenile arthritis can be very effective for treating symptoms as well as long-term effects of the disease. You should know, however, that medications can also cause side effects, or additional problems, like headaches, stomach upset, dizziness, rash and vision changes. Some medications can cause more severe side effects. DMARDs and biologics, for example, increase your risk of getting both minor and serious infections.
Why would doctors prescribe such dangerous medications? They do it only when the benefits of taking the drugs outweigh the potential problems they might cause. Still, if you experience any side effects you should definitely talk to your doctors. They may decide to change your medications.
Most people with juvenile arthritis don’t need surgery. But if your joints have been badly damaged by the disease, surgery may be an answer. Doctors can remove inflamed tissue that can’t support a joint. They can even replace very badly damaged joints.
Many surgeries can be performed on an outpatient basis, meaning you’ll be home the same day. Others may require a few nights in the hospital. Surgery may leave you with some initial discomfort, but after you heal, you’ll have less pain in the long run. Some types of surgery help you move better, while joint fusion actually fuses joints together to prevent them from moving painfully and causing more damage.
As you grow up, you’ll take more control over every aspect of your disease and its treatment. You’ll also make many decisions that have nothing to do with juvenile arthritis – decisions about college, career, parenthood and lifestyle. If you’re worried your disease may hold you back, just keep your focus on these aspects of your life, even as you continue your treatment. Juvenile arthritis won’t have a chance.
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