What are the risks of taking NSAIDs like Ibruprofen for rheumatoid disease?

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Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are regularly used to treat rheumatoid disease (aka rheumatoid arthritis). 

Think medications like Ibuprofen and Naproxen, available both over the counter and by prescription. 

NSAIDs reduce rheumatoid inflammation and pain. They are affordable and easy to obtain. They can be very effective, and it's tempting to take them every day.

But they can come with side effects.

Rheumatoid patients often have to balance the risks of taking medicines against the benefits.  The more information we have to make informed decisions the better. 

Let's look at how these drugs work.

NSAIDs work by preventing the COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes from making prostaglandins.

Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances that contribute to inflammation and pain. They are involved in inflammation, relaxation of smooth muscle, the dilation of blood vessels, and control of blood pressure.

Reducing prostaglandin production reduces inflammation and pain.

Unfortunately, it can also cause stomach issues, including ulcers and bleeding. 

There are greater risks of kidney problems, stroke and heart attack, especially when taken for a long period of time. 

Taking NSAIDs with prednisone can increase these risks. 

You can find more information about NSAIDs in the Arthritis Foundation NSAID drug guide.

Always consult your doctor before taking any medications, even over the counter ones. 

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