Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease, meaning it is caused by your immune system attacking healthy tissue in your body. But it is not yet know what causes it. Your immune system in general makes antibodies that attack various viruses and bacteria, aiding your body to fight off infection. But when your antibodies go after the wrong targets, you can suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.
As for exactly what causes rheumatoid arthritis, no one really knows. Some scientists believe it is caused when your immune system mistakes the signals sent by your joints, bones and other tissues for something else. Another theory is that it is caused by abnormal bone marrow development in your body. This is where antibodies target the lining of your lungs or your heart for infections, but in rheumatoid arthritis, these same antibodies go after the wrong things. This may be due to the fact that the lining of the lungs and heart has some of the same cells and components as those of the joints.Rheumatoid arthritis affects almost 80% of the world’s population at some point. It can strike at any point in life, but usually begins during childhood. The most common form of rheumatoid arthritis occurs in adults over the age of 50. But it can occur at any age, even during infancy. One thing about rheumatoid arthritis, though, is that it often does not cause any joint pain, only joint stiffness. But there are some cases where joint pain does occur with rheumatoid arthritis, ranging from mild to moderate to severe.
Joint pain is one of the first indicators that someone may have rheumatoid arthritis. In addition to the pain itself, though, joint stiffness can be an indicator that there is damage to one’s joints. Oftentimes, the sturdiness of the joints is far less than what it used to be due to rheumatoid arthritis causing the cartilage to wear down due to inflammation. This is why arthritic knees and joints are so common among rheumatoid arthritis patients.
Most doctors use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in treating rheumatoid arthritis. These include such commonly used treatments as ibuprofen, naproxen, indomethacin, and acetaminophen (Tylenol). These are not considered to be “natural” NSAIDs because they contain an ingredient derived from aspirin, a synthetic drug. But most people are not aware that aspirin itself contains an active ingredient that is the same as their joint pain reliever of choice, ibuprofen. Since the two ingredients cause the same swelling in the joints, joint pain killers that contain both ibuprofen and aspirin are classified as “cosmeceutical” or “complementary” treatments for inflammatory arthritis.
The most successful way to treat rheumatoid arthritis, though, is with immuno-modulating drugs or medicines that encourage the body to produce more antibodies. These types of drugs target those proteins that cause inflammation and interfere with the production of the inflammatory protein fibers. Some of these medicines, such as glatiramer acetate (Glucophage), methotrexate (metabotropic glutamate/Progesterone), leupeptase (Kreflopidylin), azathioprine (Imuran) and mercaptopurine (Purinethol) have been shown to produce remission in patients who have been prescribed them. These types of treatments can also be used to reverse the destruction of the joints by the disease and slow down the progression of the disorder.