Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that attacks the entire body as well as the joints. Until now, it is still unclear what causes this disfiguring disease but many of the finest medical minds believe that this is an autoimmune disease. By autoimmune, it means a disease wherein the body's immune system attacks its own tissue. Instead of protecting its own body from disease, it ferociously attacks itself as if it were the enemy.
The true nature of rheumatoid arthritis is still unknown but it is certain that it begins with inflammation and progresses into tissue damage. The hands and wrists are generally the areas commonly attacked by rheumatoid arthritis although the knees, balls of the feet and spine can also be affected. Even the heart doesn't escape rheumatoid arthritis. If left untreated this type of arthritis can be life threatening and can go beyond joints and can damage further the muscles, bones and skin near the affected joints. Inflammation can occur in the membranes encasing the heart and lungs. The spleen can enlarge and anemia can develop. Complications such as these make rheumatoid arthritis life threatening.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects people who are mostly at the prime of their life but this doesn't mean that other age groups are not affected by this disease. Both men and women are equally affected although more women than men get symptoms that necessitate medical attention. There are only about 20 percent of people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis that recover completely. About 60 percent of people with rheumatoid arthritis experience disease flare up that leads to death over the years. The remaining percentage of patients with rheumatoid arthritis suffer irreversible joint damage. Luckily, this disease eventually burns itself out.
Since rheumatoid arthritis is believed to be an autoimmune disease, the key to its treatment is immunosuppressive therapy. Doctors treat rheumatoid arthritis by suppressing the immune system but only to the point of diminishing symptoms but never go beyond the point where the individual becomes susceptible to infection.
Inflammation is the enemy in rheumatoid arthritis and to combat this, doctors usually prescribe aspirin and aspirin like drugs since these drugs are powerful painkillers and anti-inflammatories. These types of drugs are usually sufficient for most rheumatoid arthritis patients and it has been observed that about twenty-five percent of patients taking these relatively simple medications recover completely.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs, although good painkillers and anti-inflammatories, are usually no better compared with aspirin. NSAIDs also have some accompanying serious side effects.
For more severe cases of rheumatoid arthritis, corticosteroids are usually prescribed. These are more potent anti-inflammatory hormones with accompanying severe side effects including drug dependency. These types of drugs although effective in treating the more serious cases of rheumatoid arthritis, increase a person's susceptibility to infection and delay wound healing.
An alternative therapy to rheumatoid arthritis is diet, although this hasn't been proven effective yet but its possibility is not ignored. Studies are done to come up with the right diet to combat rheumatoid arthritis.
It has been observed in some rheumatoid arthritis sufferers that their disease becomes less too intense when they incorporated fish oils in their diet. Fish oil may reduce the symptoms of arthritis but it is still best to check with your doctor before taking any fish oil supplements as these can have adverse reactions with any medications you are currently taking like aspirin.