Rheumatoid Arthritis vs. Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Difference Between Rheumatoid Arthritis And Inflammatory Bowel Disease

One of the most common autoimmune diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, is characterized by inflammation of the synovium, a membrane that lines the joints: the synovium swells, invading and damaging bone and cartilage. Furthermore, inflammatory cells compound the problem by releasing an enzyme that destroys bone and cartilage. Pain, loss of movement, and complete destruction of the joint eventually result.

The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not known; researchers suspect that a virus may trigger the disease in people with a genetic tendency to it. Treatment may involve a combination of rest, exercise, physical therapy, and surgery. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) help control pain and swelling, as does short-term use of corticosteroids. Slow-acting antirheumatic drugs (SAARDs) can sometimes slow the course of the disease. Immunosuppressive drugs—such as methotrexate and azathioprine—can sometimes slow the growth and action of the immune cells that cause inflammation and joint pain.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE, or lupus) is another autoimmune disease. Painful joints and arthritis are its most common manifestations, and it is classified with other rheumatoid diseases. Lupus is one of the more deadly of these diseases. A recent CDC study showed an alarming increase in fatalities, especially among non-Caucasian women. Treatment entails early recognition, diagnosis, and the prescribing of such medications as NSAIDs, antimalarials, corticosteroids, and immunosuppressives.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is also caused by an immune system gone awry. IBD is actually two separate diseases: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. In both, the immune system somehow causes chronic inflammation of the intestines, damaging the bowel. As a result, bacteria can pass through the damaged bowel wall to enter the bloodstream. The body reacts to this bacterial invasion, causing such problems as skin sores, inflammation of the eyes, and liver disease. NSAIDs, corticosteroids, sulfa drugs, and immunosuppressives are standard treatments for IBD. Recent research is looking at the use of biologics—drugs that target particular chemicals in the inflammatory process—as well as possible beneficial effects from nicotine.

 

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