Can antibiotics help relieve pain from rheumatoid arthritis?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Antibiotics are an old treatment for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) that are getting a fresh look, though not by many mainstream doctors. That's too bad, because several studies show that about half of the people who take certain antibiotics -- particularly minocycline, a broad-spectrum drug in the tetracycline family -- have as much as a 50% improvement in joint pain and swelling.

Why isn't exactly clear, but a lot about rheumatoid arthritis is unclear. There's some evidence that antibiotics block cartilage-damaging enzymes. Another theory is that the drugs subdue joint inflammation.

There is scientific support for the fact that following a vegetarian or Mediterranean diet lowers inflammation in the body. If your doctor pooh-poohs that, he's probably not going to prescribe antibiotics. A holistic rheumatologist may be more willing to give it a try. To find one, check the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.