RA glossary

This makes no pretense at being a full glossary of terms relating to RA, although I’ll keep adding to it and it might be one day! It’s mostly words that I’ll be using with relation to my own experiences e.g. drugs that I’m on.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – see the ‘about RA’ page

Anti-inflammatory – a drug which reduces inflammation. These are frequently used in the treatment of RA because inflammation of the joints is one of the major symptoms and can be very debilitating.

Anti-TNF – anti-TNFs stop a protein in the blood called tumour necrosis factor (TNF) from acting. TNF is useful in the right quantities but causes inflammation when there’s too much of it in the body.

Diclofenac a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID – see below), and the one I use. It is used to reduce pain and inflammation in arthritis and after injury, amongst other things. It is a prescription drug in the UK. It is possible to take analgesics such as paracetamol and aspirin in between diclofenac doses, but not neurofen/ibruprofen. The most common side effect is a stomach related problem such as indigestion/heart burn/stomach ulcers, but these are only suffered by around 20% of people, and it is often considered more effective to take another drug to calm the stomach than to stop treatment with diclofenac. Some diclofenac formulations, such as arthrotec, come with a stomach-calming ingredient already incorporated. Alternatively the doctor might prescribe something like lansoprazol, which I use. There is a thorough wiki description of diclofenac here. It’s also known as voltarlol, amongst other things – for a fairly full list of other names, see the wiki entry.

DMARD – disease modifying antirheumatic drug. Although there is no cure for RA, DMARDs aim to stop the progression of the disease, rather than just treat the symptoms.

Hydrochloroquine– one of the older DMARDS, sometimes still used in early treatment of RA. It’s a DMARD I’m on at the moment, along with methotrexate.  It was originally an anti-malarial drug, and has few side effects with the exception of very rarely causing a detached retina (which is not fixable and not nice!) For more information see the ARC factsheet.

Lansoprazole – This inhibits the stomach’s acid production. The stomach naturally produces acid in order to digest food, but it can overproduce, causing indigestion and ulcers. One side effect of diclofenac is to cause stomach/intestine-related problems, including over-production of acid, and lansoprazole counteracts this. While it’s frustrating to be taking a drug just to counteract the side effects of another drug, as I do, and to add another seven tablets to my weekly round, it is worth it. I have had no indigestion problems since I started taking this. The wiki entry is here.

Methotrexate – A DMARD that was originally developed as chemotherapy for cancer and has a number of unpleasant side effects, requiring regular blood test monitoring. I have was on the lowest dose of this for three months with excellent results, that have now faded somewhat. The dose has been increased from 7.5mg to 10mg, which is still very low. RA treatment dosages tend to vary from 7.5mg up to about 25mg, I think. For full information see the ARC factsheet or, for a more scientific version, the wiki entry is here, although this is not very RA related.

NSAID – non-steroidal anti-inflammatory. These are the first line of defense in the battle against RA – if you don’t count paracetamol, which is helpful in dulling some pain but does nothing for the inflammation.

Rituximab – A drug administered by injection, it was originally developed to treat leukaemia. It targets particular white blood cells that are an important part of the immune response that leads to RA symtoms.

3 thoughts on “RA glossary

  1. Hi there, so happy you take the time from your busy life and illness to do a blog. That’s inspiring. I too have finally after decades of suffering got a Dx of RA. just beginning tx with infection methotrexate and I’m on the hydro drug you’re on too. I’m looking forward to reading your blog. Any advice to stay calm being on such a powerful drug as methotrexate? Thanks kindly Tammie

  2. Hi Tammie, Advice for being on methotrexate – don’t worry about it! See how it goes. If it works you’ll feel 1,000 times better – if it doesn’t, you’ve tried it, which gives you other options to move on to. Not sure where you are in the world, but if in the UK you have to try MTX first before they can move you on to biologics etc. Side effects of MTX can be horrible but MOST PEOPLE DON’T HAVE THEM! Of course most of the people that have them are the ones writing blogs! 🙂 Good luck with kicking the RA out the water! 🙂

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