A shocking 22. 7% of adults in the United States have doctor-diagnosed arthritis. That is 1 in 5 people over the age of 18. 1 The word arthritis is a medical term that specifically refers to the inflammation of joints, but is commonly used as a collective term for over 100 rheumatic diseases and conditions that affect the joints. The two primary types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Although arthritis is often assumed to be a condition only affecting adults, it is not uncommon for children to be diagnosed with juvenile arthritis, which is extremely serious.
Arthritis is a chronic disease, meaning anyone diagnosed with it will live with it for their entire life. The goal of this report is to first, present a review of arthritis and its corresponding types, and second to present findings from interviews with two experts on the topic of arthritis. For this report, a doctor and a retired professor were interviewed. Prof. Joe Vanable is a retired biology professor at Purdue University and has experienced arthritis first-hand since the age of 35.
Dr. Jennifer Barton is an academic rheumatologist who is on the medical staff at the Portland VA Medical Center. She specializes in autoimmune diseases, a fascinating set of health conditions related to the immune system that have important correlations with rheumatoid arthritis. There have been references to arthritis in texts that date as far back as 4500BC. It was not until the disease spread across the Atlantic during the Age of Exploration that the disease’s name was first coined by Dr. Alfred Baring Garrod in 1858.
There were many primitive explanations for arthritis, many of which have been disproved today. As time progressed, more was discovered about arthritis, including the varying forms and each of their causes. One of the most common types of arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease that occurs as a result of the immune system attacking the body’s healthy tissues after becoming overactive. As previously stated, Dr. Jennifer Barton was interviewed for her expertise on autoimmune diseases.
Although the causes for them are yet to be fully understood, “one hypothesis is that autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis occur due to a two-hit hypothesis – this means that an individual has a genetic predisposition and then gets a particular infection or has an exposure in the environment that together leads to disease,” Dr. Barton says. In rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system attacks the lining of the joints, called the synovium. This can lead to severe inflammation, swelling, and ongoing pain for the affected individual.
Dr. Vanable describes it as “…ongoing. It tends to have a flow from hardly noticeable to not pleasant. I think that it is a reflection of the immune system: it’s flow and how active it is. The pain…is always there. But it is being controlled quite well now with what I’m taking. It’s working quite well. ” Currently, Dr. Vanable is taking two drugs, one being methotrexate and the other meloxicam, both of which counter arthritis. Meloxicam is used to blunt some of the pain of the inflammation, whereas methotrexate is used to directly counter the progression of an autoimmune disease.
The trade-off of countering your immune system with a drug like methotrexate is quite substantial. Dr. Vanable explains: “[The medication] is partly stopping the pain, and partly toning down the immune system so that the immune system isn’t as active as it is without the medication. With treating autoimmune diseases by suppressing the immune system, you are raising your risk of developing [things like] cancer, and a risk of not being able to effectively combat viral infections. As Dr. Barton explains, a disease like rheumatoid arthritis not only affects the primary manifestations in the joints, but how “there are extra-articular, outside the joints, manifestations that include the lungs, the skin, the blood vessels, the eye, and the heart. ”
Besides being genetically prone to it, there are several other factors that can make you more prone to being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and diseases like it. As Dr. Vanable puts it, “… tress can have quite a bit to do with having arthritis start because there are connections between stress and the immune system…trying to have as little stress as possible would help your chances of not developing arthritis even though you may have the genes to predispose. ” Dr. Barton adds that “In rheumatoid arthritis there is something call the “shared epitope,” which is found disproportionately among patients with RA compared to non-affected individuals.
We know that people who smoke have an increased risk of getting RA – in people with the shared epitope who smoke, their risk is much, much higher than in non-smokers without the shared epitope. ” Regarding race and gender, she says that “Native Americans are more likely to get rheumatoid arthritis, and women are again more likely to get rheumatoid arthritis than men (but in a ratio of 2:1 or 3:1). Autoimmune diseases, in general, tend to affect women more than men. ” There are also other types of autoimmune diseases that may affect the kidney, brain, or other parts of the body.
When asked, Dr. Barton explained what scientists know about how the body “chooses” the affected area. “We don’t know exactly why certain organs are ‘chosen’ – but antibodies attack the self in any of these organs and cause disease. ” Osteoarthritis, which is slightly more common than rheumatoid arthritis, is a serious disease in which protective cartilage and fluid inside the joints begin breaking down after years of usage. As a result, osteoarthritis is very common in older people but can also happen to obese people. The pain of osteoarthritis varies from person to person, ranging from mild to severe.
In order to keep the inflammation down, regular doses of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are prescribed. Rheumatoid and osteoarthritis are just two of the many different types of arthritis. Nearly all types of arthritis can be diagnosed in children, this being called juvenile arthritis. Juvenile arthritis is not a disease itself, but again a collective term for any of the types of arthritis, specifically in children under the age of 16. Considering arthritis is a chronic disease with no known cure, juvenile arthritis is extremely serious.
The disease can worsen if not quickly treated and will significantly alter the affected child’s life. In fact, juvenile arthritis affects nearly 300,000 children in the US. According to arhtitis. org, juvenile arthritis has distinct symptoms that go along with it. In some cases, the disease can involve not only joints, but the eyes, skin, muscles, and the gastrointestinal tract. 2 In some cases, remission of juvenile arthritis is possible if treated early enough. Arthritis is often diagnosed with doctor administered lab tests, usually blood tests, to test for antibodies.
X-rays are also common ways to test for the presence of arthritis. This, along with other visual tests such as ultrasounds and MRIs, allow the doctor to see the joint and any inflammation around it. After this, the doctor will try to figure out which type of arthritis it is, and prescribe an appropriate medication for it. Despite the disease’s difficulties, many cases of arthritis are treatable. Thanks to high amounts of painkillers, affected individuals are often able to carry out everyday tasks. Nonetheless, arthritis causes considerable stress and often leads to a reduction in quality of life for those afflicted with the condition.