Question: What are corticosteroids and how are they used to treat pain resulting from rheumatoid arthritis?
Answer: Corticosteroids are a family of medications that can be extremely helpful for patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The positive side of these medications is that they can decrease the inflammation of the joints very rapidly.
The negative side, however, is that if they are utilized for a long period of time it can hurt you. So it is very important when you are taking these types of medications to consult and work close with your doctor.
Sometimes what we do is we increase the dose of the steroid to treat exacerbation of the pain or a flare of the inflammation of certain joints. Once the inflammation is better controlled, perhaps because we are utilizing simultaneously another medication or because you're going into remission of your condition, then we can cut them down slowly and eventually stop them completely.
Another possibility is to use the steroids right into the joint. Is that procedure safe? Yes it is safe and can be extremely helpful. If it doesn't help, however, is when you may decide to take it by mouth for some period of time.