Understanding Arthritis and Inflammation
Can Inflammation Affect Internal Organs?
Yes. Inflammation can affect organs as part of an autoimmune disorder. The type of symptoms experienced depends on which organs are affected. For example:
- Inflammation of the heart (myocarditis) may cause shortness of breath or fluid retention.
- Inflammation of the small tubes that transport air to the lungs may cause an shortness of breath.
- Inflammation of the kidneys (nephritis) may cause high blood pressure or kidney failure.
Pain may not be a primary symptom of an inflammatory disease, because many organs do not have pain-sensitive nerves. Treatment of organ inflammation is directed at the cause of inflammation whenever possible.
How Are Inflammatory Joint Diseases Treated?
There are a number of treatment options for inflammatory diseases including medications, rest, exercise, and surgery to correct joint damage. The type of treatment prescribed will depend on several factors, including the type of disease, the person's age, type of medications he or she is taking, overall health, medical history, and severity of symptoms.
The goals of treatment are the following:
- Correct, control, or slow down the underlying disease process
- Avoid or modify activities that aggravate pain
- Relieve pain through pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs
- Maintain joint movement and muscle strength through physical therapy
- Decrease stress on the joints by using braces, splints, or canes as needed
What Drugs Are Used to Treat Inflammatory Diseases?
There are many drugs available to decrease joint pain, swelling and inflammation, and possibly prevent or minimize the progression of the inflammatory disease. The medications include the following:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen)
- Corticosteroids (such as prednisone)
- Antimalarial medications (such as hydroxychloroquine)
- Other oral drugs, including methotrexate, sulfasalazine, leflunomide, azathioprine, penicillamine, cyclophosphamide, and apremilast
- Biologic drugs such as infliximab, etanercept, adalimumab, certolizumab, golimumab, abatacept, tocilizumab, and rituximab
Some of these medications are traditionally used to treat other conditions such as cancer or inflammatory bowel disease, or to reduce the risk of rejection of a transplanted organ. However, when "chemotherapy" drugs (such as methotrexate or cyclophosphamide) are used to treat inflammatory diseases, the doses are significantly lower and the risks of side effects tend to be less than when prescribed in higher doses for cancer treatment.
When you are prescribed any medication, it is important to meet with your doctor regularly so he or she can detect the development of any side effects.