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Understanding DMARDs

If you've been diagnosed with a rheumatologic condition like rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you've probably heard the term "DMARDs." But what are DMARDs, and why are they so important?

What Are DMARDs?

DMARD stands for Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs. These are medications designed to slow down or alter the progression of rheumatic diseases, which means they do more than just relieve symptoms—they actually help prevent further joint damage.

The Evolution of Rheumatologic Treatments

Years ago, the main treatments for rheumatologic conditions were non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and steroids like prednisone. While these medications could reduce pain and inflammation, they didn't stop the disease from getting worse. This left patients with limited options and often led to progressive joint damage and deformities.

In the past 20 to 30 years, DMARDs have transformed rheumatology. Unlike NSAIDs and steroids, DMARDs have been proven through studies to slow down the progression of diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. This means less joint erosion, fewer deformities, and significantly reduced pain and swelling.

Here are some of the commonly used DMARDs:

  • Methotrexate: Often the first choice for treating rheumatoid arthritis, it's effective but can be hard on the liver and bone marrow.

  • Sulfasalazine: Effective but not suitable for people allergic to sulfa drugs and requires taking multiple pills daily.

  • Leflunomide (Arava): Similar in effectiveness to methotrexate and usually taken once a day.

  • Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil): Less potent but has fewer side effects. It's not immunosuppressive but immunomodulating, which means it helps rebalance the immune system rather than suppressing it.

Balancing Effectiveness and Side Effects

Each DMARD comes with its own set of potential side effects, such as liver toxicity or blood disorders. Regular monitoring through blood tests is often necessary to ensure the medications are safe for long-term use.

Treatment Goals Today

The goals of treating rheumatologic conditions have also evolved. Today, the aim is often full remission or minimal disease activity. This means no pain, no swelling, and no morning stiffness—essentially living as if you don’t have a rheumatologic disorder, with the only reminder being your medication.

Combining Treatments

In some cases, doctors might combine DMARDs to enhance their effectiveness. For instance, methotrexate and hydroxychloroquine are often used together because their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.

Treatment Plans

Ultimately, the choice of which DMARD to use depends on individual factors, such as any allergies (e.g., to sulfa drugs), the severity of the condition, and how well a patient tolerates the medication.

The Future Is Bright

The development and use of DMARDs have brought new hope to those suffering from rheumatologic conditions. These medications not only improve quality of life by reducing symptoms but also protect the joints from long-term damage. This progress in treatment means that patients today have a much better chance of living a normal, active life.

If you have any questions or need further information, feel free to reach out. Your journey with a rheumatologic condition can be more manageable with the right knowledge and treatments. Remember to consult with your healthcare provider to find the best treatment plan for you.

Are you looking for a highly skilled and trusted physician that can finally help you find what you have? Maybe you searched google for the “best rheumatologist in Denver” and felt that no other arthritis clinic in Denver really seemed personable? Maybe you are simply looking for a doctor that will listen to you and work with you to achieve disease remission? We think that UnabridgedMD has the best rheumatologist in Denver and the best rheumatology practice in Colorado! We would love to work with you!

You can schedule your first appointment at or schedule a free 15 minute discovery call with Dr. Amigues herself by clicking HERE.

We cannot wait to welcome you to the UnabridgedMD family!

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