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Reumatoid Arthritis A Debilitating Disease Essay, Research Paper

Rheumatoid Arthritis a Debilitating Disease

It began seven years ago when Sandra woke up and was getting out bed. She went to stand up and she felt this severe pain in both of her feet. When she

looked at her feet they were swollen and bluish red and warm to the touch. She

could not understand what was happening. At first she thought she might have

frozen her feet. But as time went by she started to get lumps on the bottom of

her feet so she went to see the doctor. The doctor did some tests and he

diagnosed Sandra with having a disease called rheumatoid arthritis though it was a mild case at the time. Over the past seven years it has became more severe, even doing little day- to- day jobs has become more difficult.

Rheumatoid arthritis can be a crippling disease that causes painful swelling

and stiffness that mainly affects the wrists and fingers but it can also affect other

areas of the body (The Arthritis Society, 2001). The Statistics from the

Canadian Arthritis Society say it affects 300,000 Canadians, that is 1 in 10 will

develop rheumatoid arthritis. This paper will discuss what rheumatoid arthritis is, some of the treatment for this disease and lifestyle changes that people can make to live a better with rheumatoid arthritis.

What is rheumatoid arthritis? Doctors do not know what exactly causes rheumatoid arthritis, but rheumatoid arthritis is a debilitating disease that has several special features that makes it different from other kinds of arthritis. For example, rheumatoid arthritis generally occurs in a well-formed pattern. This means that if a knee or hand is involved, the other knee and hand are also involved (Nat’l Inst. Of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease, 1998). Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease where the immune system begins to attack the joints. This causes an inflammation, usually in the small joints of the hands, wrists, feet and many times spreading to the knees and hips. The affected joints have pain, swelling, warmth, and stiffness after prolonged immobility, extreme fatigue and loss of function (Rall & Roubenoff, 2000). In addition to affecting the joints, rheumatoid arthritis may occasionally affect the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, blood, nerves, and kidneys. You may also experience lessening of appetite, weight loss and fevers. As well 20 per cent of people will develop lumps that form over the joints and other parts of the body, that are called rheumatoid nodules and that can be rather painful (The Arthritis Society, 2001). Rheumatoid arthritis affects every person differently. In most patients, joint symptoms develop gradually over several years. In some patients, rheumatoid arthritis may progress rapidly. Rheumatoid arthritis has a genetic or inherited factor that makes some people more likely to develop this disease than others (Shlotzhauer & McGuire, 1993). Twice as many women develop rheumatoid arthritis than men. Most people will develop rheumatoid arthritis between the ages of 25 years and 50 years old but rheumatoid arthritis can affect people of all ages from toddlers to seniors.

What are the treatments for rheumatoid arthritis? Most people with rheumatoid arthritis seek a variety of treatments for their arthritis. The first defense to fight rheumatoid arthritis is medication. According to the Arthritis Society, there are four types of medications used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. One group of medication is non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; a medications that reduce the pain and swelling but does not prevent further joint damage. The second type of medication is disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs; a group of medications that works by slowing or stopping the immune system from attacking the joints. The third medication is oral cortisone, which is a steroid that reduces inflammation and swelling. And the last group of medication is biologics, a newer drug. These drugs block specific hormones which are involved in the inflammatory process. These are the most common medications used in the fight against rheumatoid arthritis. Another treatment is using heat from a heating pad or a hot pack to relax the muscles, and reduce joint pain and soreness. Cold from an ice pack will help lessen the swelling in the joints. Sandra says,” I fine that if I use heat on my shoulders it helps quite a bit but, the rest of me my knees, or my hands, or my wrists ice packs help me the most” (Appendix A). Another treatment is exercise. Three major forms of exercise are appointed for people with rheumatoid arthritis: range of motion, muscle strengthening, and endurance (Sholtzhauer & McGuire, 1993). Another treatment is surgery where the doctors may cut the bones that are growing in a deformed manner and causing pain. Surgery may be performed on joints that have caused the patient’s significant loss of function (Dequense University, 1995). Relaxation is a treatment used by some patients, relaxing the muscles around the inflamed joints to reduce the pain (the Arthritis Society, 2001). Some people go outside of the medical community and search for alternative therapies including: as acupuncture and acupressure, used to stimulate the energy points; bee venom therapy using live bees to sting the inflamed joints; and copper bracelets may be worn, to ease arthritis pain. Little improvement is shown with these treatments, so there has to be more research done on them to prove their beneficial effects (Horstman, 1999).

How will rheumatoid arthritis affect your lifestyle? Every time you experience pain you will be reminded that you have rheumatoid arthritis, so you will have to make changes in your lifestyle. In Coping With Rheumatoid Arthritis, Dr. Phillips suggests six changes that will help you live a better life: plan activities in advance so you can avoid excessive physical and emotional fatigue and strain. Reorganize rooms, working areas, and other parts of your home to maximize efficiency and convenience. Try to arrange your tasks so you avoid trips back and forth. Try to avoid carrying items in hands; when possible use shopping carts or bags to put less stress on your joints. Try to avoid excessive bending, straining or reaching; sit, if you can, rather than stand. When you have prolonged periods of activities you should have a period of rest.

One of the best ways to help with your rheumatoid arthritis is to be educated. There are numerous books that are filled with information about rheumatoid arthritis. You can find information on the internet, but you have to be careful because not all sites contain valid information. Making changes in your diet may benefit the fight against rheumatoid arthritis by eating more foods with omega 3 in them, like fish, green soy beans and white and black walnuts are beneficial (Horstman, 1999). As well as everything else you should take care of the joints by using a splint for short periods of time around the painful joint to reduce pain and swelling by supporting the joint and letting it rest.

People who are diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis have a lifetime of trials of finding which medications will work for them; this may take years and the patient might not ever find a medication that works for them. They may want to try alternative therapies, changes made in their lifestyle or even changes in their diet to find relief from the pain of rheumatoid arthritis. The hope for the future is that scientists are making rapid progress in understanding rheumatoid arthritis, how and why it develops, why some people get it and others do not, why some people get it more severely than others. There is also hope for tomorrow; scientists continue to explore the ways to stop the disease before it becomes destructive or even prevent rheumatoid arthritis all together.

Dequesne University, (1995) Study of rheumatoid arthritis: Http://www.duq.edu/PT/RA/RA.

Horstman, J. (1999) Alternative therapies. Atlanta, Ga: Arthritis Foundation.

Korchinski, S. personal interview, Jan. 25, 2001

Nat’l inst. of arthritis and munculoskeletal and skin diseases. (1998), Health

Reference center.

Phillips, R. H. (1988). Coping with rheumatoid arthritis. Garden City Park, New York: Avery Publishing Group Inc.

Rall, L. C., Roubenoff, R. (2000) Nutrition and connective tissue health: Health reference center.

Shlotzhauer, T. L., MC Guire, J. L. (1993) Living with rheumatoid arthritis. Baltimor and London: The John Hopkins University Press.

The Arthritis Society, (2001) Rheumatoid arthritis: Http://www.arthritis.ca.

Appendix A

Topic: Rheumatoid arthritis

Name of Interviewee: Sandra Korchinski

Date of Interview: January 25, 2001

Method of Collecting Data: Tape recorded Conversation


How long have you been living with rheumatoid arthritis?

What medications have you tried for your arthritis, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, modifying anti-rheumatic, oral cortisone, or biologic drugs?

Have you tried any other treatments?

Which joints are painful or stiff?

When is the pain or stillness worse?

What makes the symptoms better or worst?

Do you have morning stiffness and how long does it last?

Does the arthritis make you fell tired?

What does your future hold for you?

Are you angry or depressed about having arthritis?

Do you have fears or being crippled or be in a wheelchair?

Do you wear any splints to relive the pain of arthritis?

Are you showing any sign of physical changes in you body?

How can you bier the pain from the arthritis?

Does your family understand what your arthritis is and how it is going to affect you over the years to come?

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