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Rheumatoid Arthritis (cont.)

Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) and Analgesics

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): These drugs reduce swelling and pain but do not stop joint damage and alone are not sufficient to treat rheumatoid arthritis. These drugs work by blocking an enzyme called cyclo-oxygenase (COX) that promotes inflammation. There are at least two forms of the enzyme: COX-1 and COX-2. Some people with a history of stomach ulcers or liver problems should not take these drugs. This group includes aspirin, although aspirin is rarely used in rheumatoid arthritis because it is not as safe as other agents.

Analgesics: These agents reduce pain but do not affect swelling or joint destruction.

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol, Feverall, Tempra): This drug is often used by people who cannot take NSAIDs because of hypersensitivity, ulcers, liver problems, or interactions with other drugs.
  • Tramadol (Ultram)
  • Opioids: These drugs may be used to treat moderately severe to severe pain that is not relieved by other analgesics.

For more information on these medications, see Understanding Rheumatoid Arthritis Medications.

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