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Effects of Rheumatoid Arthritis on the Human Body (Essay Sample)

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the paper looks at the effects of Rheumatoid Arthritis on the human body.

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Effects of Rheumatoid Arthritis on the Human Body
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Introduction
People of all ages, male and female, are susceptible to inflammatory diseases. These disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis are catabolic conditions that lead to loss of lean tissue and related functional abnormalities that alters energy and protein metabolism and that lead to changes in body composition (Heymsfield, Lohman and Wang, 2005, pg. 341).
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a progressive inflammatory disorder characterized by proliferation of the synovial membrane and persistent uncontrolled inflammation resulting in a chronic destructive polyarthritis (Kavanaugh, Weinblatt and Cush, 2010, pg. 15). Typically, RA manifests itself as a symmetric arthritis involving numerous small and large joints. Articular symptoms may be accompanied by systemic inflammatory symptoms such as fatigue, articular stiffness, anorexia and fever.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a worldwide affliction with remarkably consistent prevalence, affecting approximately 1 percent of the population. It is most prevalent in highly developed countries, such as the United States, England and Scandinavia. The prevalence of the disease varies in some population, for example, it may exceed 5 percent in several Native American tribes (Yakima, Chippewa and Pima). In contrast, RA is less common in Japan and Hong Kong and relatively rare in Indonesia and sub Saharan Africa (Kavanaugh, Weinblatt and Cush, 2010, pg. 29).
The average age of persons with RA is 66.8 yeasrs. According to CDC (2007), arthritis and related conditions such as RA, cost the U.S economy nearly $128 billion annually in medical care and indirect expenses including lost wages and productivity. It accounts for 22 percent of all deaths from athritis and other rheumatic conditions. Persons with RA are two times more likely to die than persons of the same age without RA in the general population (Wolfe, Mitchell and Siblety, 1994, pg. 483).
Rheumatoid Arthritis
RA is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the movable joints. It differs from osteoarthritis in that it is not caused by wear and tear, instead, it appears to be an autoimmune disorder. That is, the body’s own immune system produces antibodies against its tissues causing inflammation and pain. Though it can be controlled, it can be progressive if left untreated. Most important, it is not a terminal illness, if diagnosed early and treated appropriately.
The human body consists of about 300 individual bones, connected by more than 140 joints. To function, a joint also requires ligaments, tendons and muscle tissue. It was once believed that bones were relatively inert once they were formed. Today it is known that bone is constantly turned over. Two special types of cells carry out remodeling and repair work; the osteoclasts which remove bone and the osteoblasts which are responsible for forming new born. Both of the two cells participate in mending of broken bones. Arthritis works by impacting on the balance between the osteoclasts and osteoblasts.
The body consists of only three types of joints the synarthroid or fibrous joints, these are the ones separating the plates that form the skull, there is the amphiarthroidal or cartilaginous joints, which are responsible for the limited movement in the intervertebral bones and finally the diarthroidal or synovial joints which are highly mobile. The first two due to their level of movement are not affected by rheumatoid arthritis (RA), however, the highly mobile diarthroidal or synovial joints are the target of RA (Loebl, Lockshin and Paget, 2002, pgs. 39-40). This is especially so in the small joints of the hands and feet, the hips, knees, elbows and shoulder. As the disease progresses more and more joints get affected.
RA is a degenerative disease of the joints. It is more serious and debilitating than osteoarthritis. The symptoms include swollen, painful and stiff joints. These symptoms can occur at any stage even in young children, although they usually develop later in life. This disease causes inflammation of the synovial membrane and disruption of the cartilage surface of joints. As it progresses, the cartilage surface of the joint may be completely destroyed, causing friction, pain and immobility. Bones may even fuse together. The small bones of the hands and the feet are the most often involve, but it is common for the disease to progress to larger joints.
RA is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s antibodies mistakenly attack one’s own tissues, causing their inflammation. Heredity may play a part, but it is still unclear (Mahendra, 2000, pg. 1392).
Prevalence
Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the common forms of athritis.among the inflammatory forms of arthritis it is the most common form in this group. It is a chronic disease. Its incidences or pravalence varies among racial and ethnic groups. However, it does not seem to correlate with the geogarphical area of where one lives (Lahita, 2001, pg. 4). More than two million people in the United States suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, that’s about 2 out of every 100 adults.
Researchers do not believe that gender might play some role in how rheumatoid arthritis develops and progresses. However, rheumatoid arthritis affects nearly twice as many women than men, usually between the ages of 25 and 50, although any age including children can be affected. Lahita (2001, pg. 5), states that women are affected by rheumatoid arthritis three to four times more commonly than men. A major American study conducted in 1964 indicated that the prevalence was 3.8 percent among women and 1.3 percent among men. Researchers are trying to understand what role female hormones might play.
Interestingly, women with arthritis usually go into remission, that is, a period of time where symptoms of a disease are not present, this usually happens especially when they are pregnant. Moreover, there is a tendency although not confirmed that women tend to develop rheumatoid arthritis in the year after pregnancy and the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can increase the year after giving birth (Matzko and Newman, 2007, pg. 26).
Rheumatoid is not an inherited disease, although the genes that are responsible for rheumatoid arthritis can be inherited and they make or tend to make a person be more predisposed to develop it (Matzko and Newman, 2007, pg. 8).
Signs and Symptoms
The causes of RA are yet to be known. Signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include stiffness, fatigue, pain, limited joint motion, joint swelling and warm and red joints. People with rheumatoid arthritis experience a great deal of stiffness and difficulty moving, this is especially so, in the morning and after sitting for a long time. Joints may ache with nagging pain causing one to be uncomfortable. The disease can cause enough joint pain and damage which can make one unable to perform routine daily activities. A feeling of tiredness can also be overpowering (Matzko and Newman 2007, pg. 4).
Rheumatoid arthritis can affect other parts of the body. There could be nodules or lumps that form around the joint areas, dry eyes and a dry mouth from certain inflammatory "fighting" cells that clog the saliva and tear ducts. There might also have inflamation of the lung tissues called pulmonary fibrosis, lumps in the lungs (pulmonary nodules) and fluid around the lungs (pleural effusion). Additionally, inflammtion of the sac that sorrounds the heart (pericarditis) may occur (Matzko and Newman, 200, pg. 6).
Diagnosis
Merely having the signs and symptoms of RA does not mean one has the disease. There is need to see a doctor for a true diagnosis. Blood tests can be used to help diagnose RA. Blood often shows mild anemia and increased platelet count. These symptoms are a result of the body’s reaction to inflammation. Other ways of diagnosis of RA is the anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide.
Risk Factors
Several risk factors for the development of RA have been suggested, the mains ones include increasing age, female sex, RF and anti CCP antibody positivity. Smoking has also been shown to increase the risk of disease severity and extra-articular disease.
Management
RA is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis in adults. Its prevalence and destructive potential exact a considerable toll from affected patients in terms of substantial morbidity, progressive disability and accelerated mortality. This has profound economic implications for the affected patients, their families and the society. Without effective treatment, the expected course of RA is one of progressive disability (Kavanaugh, Weinblatt and Cush, 2010, pg. 15).
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