Open Accessibility Menu

What men should know about rheumatoid arthritis treatment options

What men should know about rheumatoid arthritis treatment options

Joint pain can be the worst. When your joints are inflamed, it can disrupt your mobility and your everyday routines. The good news? If rheumatoid arthritis is to blame, there are a number of rheumatoid arthritis treatment options.

If you’ve experienced pain and stiffness recently, you might be tempted to shrug it off as a normal part of your work or your pickup basketball habit. But it could also be a sign of arthritis.

Arthritis is common among Americans, affecting 58.5 million people. While it sounds like a single medical condition, arthritis encompasses multiple conditions that negatively affect the joints.

Want to know something interesting? If you and your wife both have arthritis, odds are that you’ll experience it in different ways. How does rheumatoid arthritis affect men? Here’s what you should know:

Understanding arthritis in men

While both men and women develop arthritis, it shows up differently in men than in women.

For one thing, the most common type of inflammatory arthritis in men is gout. This condition, which causes inflamed joints particularly in the feet, is rare in women but can affect men as young as age 20.

Other types of arthritis are also common in men, but they usually appear later in life. Osteoarthritis is by far the most common form of arthritis in both men and women. This less inflammatory form of arthritis causes joint pain typically related to wear and tear on the joints over time. Progressive joint damage is the result.

What about rheumatoid arthritis, though? While it’s much less common in men than in women, many men have the condition, especially those with risk factors such as obesity and smoking. And its effect can be substantial, impacting everything from mobility to intimacy.

What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Unlike osteoarthritis, which occurs due to wear and tear over the years, rheumatoid arthritis is what’s known as an “autoimmune disease.” When a person has this form of arthritis, the immune system rebels, attacking the lining of the joints as if it were an invader in the body.

When this happens, joints in the hands, knees or ankles can become inflamed and painful. Those who have rheumatoid arthritis may also experience notable stiffness in the morning that can linger for a half hour or even longer.

Fatigue, weight gain or loss, and weakness are common symptoms, and men with the condition are more likely to experience erectile dysfunction. That side effect is most common among men with heart health issues.

How to find relief from rheumatoid arthritis

If you are diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, help is available. While the condition has painful effects, your care team can suggest a personalized treatment plan for your specific needs and symptoms.

Rheumatoid arthritis treatment options include:

  • Medications. Depending on the type of symptoms you’re experiencing and the severity of those symptoms, you may be prescribed several types of medication. This can include over-the-counter and prescription anti-inflammatories to reduce pain and inflammation, antirheumatic drugs to slow disease progression, corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and swelling, and biologic agents to impact the immune system and slow the disease. Some medications, particularly biologic agents and corticosteroids, can have significant side effects.
  • Therapy. Rheumatoid arthritis can progress to a point where joints are deformed, and range of motion is decreased. A physical or occupational therapist may be able to help you create adaptations in everyday activities as needed, to restore range of motion and to improve mobility.
  • Surgery. In some cases, surgical procedures may be needed to achieve pain relief. Because rheumatoid arthritis causes the lining of the joints to be attacked by the immune system, removal of that joint lining is sometimes recommended. But joint replacement is the most common surgical procedure to treat inflamed joints.

Beyond these treatment options, your medical provider may recommend lifestyle changes, including dietary modifications and increased physical activity.

While it seems counterintuitive to exercise when your joints make movement painful, exercise can actually reduce discomfort. Swimming and water aerobics can be particularly helpful since they allow low-impact movement without pressure on the joints.

A diet that incorporates inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids can also be helpful. These fatty acids, which can be found in fatty fish such as salmon or tuna, can also be obtained through fish oil supplements.

The key to successful treatment is detecting and treating the condition as early as possible. If you’re experiencing pain and stiffness, don’t toss it off as normal—talk with your doctor about your symptoms and a possible diagnosis. A simple blood test can sometimes confirm if rheumatoid arthritis is to blame.

The best plan to treat rheumatoid arthritis is the one created with you in mind. LCMC Health orthopedic specialists are here and waiting to get you back to your best self.