Rheumatoid Arthritis in Young Adults


            Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune type of arthritis generally affecting teenagers and young adults. It is different from osteoarthritis, which wears down joint tissue from injuries or sports. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic systemic disease, typically of the joints, marked by extensive fibrinoid deterioration of the collagen fibers in mesenchymal tissues, inflammatory changes in the articular structures and synovial membranes, and by rarefaction and atrophy of bony structures. Etiology is uncertain, but origins have been associated with autoimmune mechanisms. Rheumatoid arthritis is an unremitting autoimmune disease with noticeable deformities and soreness of the joints. A virus is believed to have caused an attack on the synovium, which discharges cytokines that intensify an inflammatory reaction that bring about the impairment of the entire mechanisms of the joint (Wrong Diagnosis, 2009).

            Rheumatoid arthritis causes joint damage that can be equally disfiguring and debilitating. Damage to the adolescents’ joints may make it impossible or difficult for them to accomplish their every day activities. The affected individuals may initially find that their tasks take more energy to complete, and gradually they may find that they are no longer capable to perform the tasks in any way.

Overview of Current Hypothesis

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Healthcare providers do not exactly know the specific cause of rheumatoid arthritis. However, they do know that with this type of arthritis, the body tissues of a person are attacked by his or her own immune system. Researchers are continually learning several things in relation to how and why this disease occurs. Accordingly, latest findings suggest the factors that may cause rheumatoid arthritis including genes; environment; and hormones (National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases).

For diagnosis, people can go to a rheumatologist or their family doctor. Rheumatoid arthritis can be very difficult to diagnose given that:

1. There is no single obtainable analysis for the disease;

2. The symptoms can be indistinguishable from other types of joint disease; and,

3. The complete symptoms can take a longer period to build up (National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases).

To diagnose rheumatoid arthritis, doctors use the patient’s laboratory tests, x-rays, physical examination results and medical history. Early treatment of adolescents with rheumatoid arthritis with approaches aiming at remission offers the most excellent outcomes. Pending the likelihood of appropriate severe disease approaches and treatment response, a promising method today would still be to promptly bring on remission by means of a valuable combination of drugs followed by tightening and discontinuation.

Characteristics of the Condition

Rheumatoid arthritis is disease that has an effect on the joints, as it causes stiffness, swelling and pain on the joints, and as such, the disease is capable of causing grave joint damage. If one hand or knee is affected by rheumatoid arthritis, more often than not, the other is as well affected. This disease normally can affect any joint in the body and takes place in more than one joint at one time. People with rheumatoid arthritis may experience tiredness, weight loss and sickness, and they occasionally contract fevers (National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases). Patients with the disease may develop systemic complications, anemia and may have other concurrent autoimmune symptoms and disorders such as the dry mouth and eyes linked with Sjogren’s syndrome (Lab Tests Online, 2006).

Rheumatoid arthritis takes place once white blood cells, whose natural task is to attack viruses and bacteria, move from the bloodstream of a person into the membranes that surround the person’s joints. The white blood cells are believed to have, in one way or another, a responsibility in causing inflammation of the synovium (MayoClinic, 2008). The swelling causes the discharge of proteins that, over years or months cause the synovium to coagulate. Moreover, the proteins can damage the tendons, bone, cartilage and ligaments near the patient’s joint. Gradually, the joint loses its alignment and shape, and in due course may be damaged.

Who are Affected and Why they are Affected

About one percent of the United States population or 2.5 million Americans are affected by rheumatoid arthritis (Wrong Diagnosis, 2009). Scientists estimate that approximately one percent of the United States adults or 2.1 million people have the chronic disease (Wrong Diagnosis, 2009). If left untreated, rheumatoid arthritis can shorten the lifespan of a person and within a few years, it can leave roughly 30 to 40 percent of those affected excessively immobilized (Lab Tests Online, 2006).

Rheumatoid arthritis may develop in every ethnic groups and races. Young adults or adolescents are usually affected by the chronic disease. Although arthritis frequently takes place during middle age, and the rate of occurrences increases in older people; however, adolescents and children can and often develop rheumatoid arthritis (Wrong Diagnosis, 2009). Similar to some other types of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis arises much more regularly in women than in men. About 71 percent or 4:1 of women are affected by the chronic disease, and approximately two to three times as many women as men have rheumatoid arthritis (Wrong Diagnosis, 2009).

In a study made before a large group of women in the United States, significant geographic variation in occurrence of rheumatoid arthritis was found. Possible explanations include regional difference in genetic factors, diagnosis, environmental exposures, climate, and behavioral factors (Costenbader, Chang, Laden, Puett, & Karlson, 2008). Compared with women in the West, women in New England had a 37 to 45 percent higher possibility of obtaining the disease (Costenbader, Chang, Laden, Puett, & Karlson, 2008). In examinations of women ages between 15 and 30 years old who lived in the same region since birth, those living in the Midwest were linked with higher possibility, same as those living in New England . Compared with 15 and 30 years old women living in the West at birth, the possibility of disease was elevated in the East.

If a family member has rheumatoid arthritis, the patient may have an increased possibility of the disease (MayoClinic, 2008). Doctors do not believe that a patient can directly inherit the disease. It is believed instead that a person can inherit a tendency to rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, smoking cigarettes increases a person’s risk of rheumatoid arthritis, and obviously, giving up can reduce the person’s risk.

Effects of Having the Disease

Chronic arthritis is considerably associated to increased rates of depression and anxiety (Packham, 2006). The transition from adolescence to adulthood can be destructively affected not only by the outlooks of parents and peers, but as well by the outlooks of persons with rheumatoid arthritis. In the face of pain, functional constraint, and poor body figure, sexual and social relationships may be more difficult to maintain and develop. The family of the adolescent may also be affected on numerous levels. Moreover, financial security and employment are justifiable and common concerns of young disabled persons.

Nevertheless, if these adolescents obtain employment, they are generally perceived as having considerably inferior interpersonal employment skills and are creditable of considerably inferior rates for general job performance, although no distinctions were found in the ratings of their job expertise or job commitment. The adverse social reaction received by adolescents with rheumatoid arthritis in their workplace is one aspect that impairs the improvement of social support for these individuals at work and contributes to their overblown disability rate.

Time Variations

The course of rheumatoid arthritis and its diagnosis are inconsistent. It may progress and develop rapidly or slowly. Some people have times when the symptoms are reduced or have gotten better, and times when they flare or get worse, while others have a serious type of the disease that can persist for a lifetime or many years. The disease may go into remission in a number of patients and it may disappear in some. Some individuals have this disease for just a year or two, or a few months, and disappears without causing injury. Pregnant women with the disease normally experience reduced symptoms throughout their pregnancy and aggravated symptoms following delivery (Lab Tests Online, 2006).  The frequency of rheumatoid disease is approximately three cases per 10,000 persons yearly. Commencement is uncommon among those under 15 years old; however, from that time on the occurrence increases with the person’s age until the age of 80.

Patients with rheumatoid arthritis report joint stiffness, swelling and pain on waking, which get better as the morning progresses. Stiffness in the early morning is regarded as a fundamental characteristic pointing to inflammatory polyarthritis (Annals of Rheumatic Diseases, 2008). Moreover, medical information revealed that morning stiffness is unsuccessfully related and linked to diverse patient characteristics.

Ways of Reducing Risk

            Doctors have many ways to treat or reduce risk of rheumatoid arthritis (National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases). The objectives of treatment are normally to: (1) help patients feel better; (2) stop or suppress joint damage; (3) reduce inflammation; (4) take away soreness; and (5) help patients stay dynamic (National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases).

Persons with the disease can take steps to care of their bodies. These self-care measures, when used together with rheumatoid arthritis medications, can facilitate patients to cope with their symptoms and signs. Rheumatoid arthritis treatments can consist of support groups, self-management programs, and patient educations that facilitate patients learn about: (1) how to communicate with their doctor; (2) how to relax and exercise; (3) medications; and (4) problem solving (National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases).

The degree to which the disease affects the patients’ daily activities depends in part on how well they manage with the disease. Nevertheless, the programs mentioned in the preceding paragraph can help patients: (1) build confidence; (2) feel more in control of the disease; (3) handle with emotional and physical issues; (4) reduce pain; (5) familiarize the disease; and (6) lead complete and dynamic lives (National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases).

With appropriate mediations, approximately 70 percent of patients with rheumatoid arthritis live a dynamic normal life (Wrong Diagnosis, 2009). While the disease can have severe effects on an individual’s wellbeing and life, modern treatment approaches, including a well-balanced exercise and rest, pain relievers and other medications, surgery, as well as support programs and patient education, allow a good number of individuals with the disease to lead productive and active lives. Moreover, with proper education, treatment, and lifestyle changes, most adolescents with rheumatoid arthritis also live long and fruitful lives.

Adolescence with rheumatoid arthritis endure a doubled possibility of heart disease, independent of other risk factors such as elevated blood pressure, cholesterol, and body mass index, as well as alcohol abuse and diabetes. The system by which the disease causes this augmented risk remains indefinite. However, the existence of unremitting inflammation has been suggested as a contributing factor.

Opinion on the Topic

            Learning about chronic diseases, particularly rheumatoid arthritis and its characteristics, who are affected and why people are affected by the disease, treatments, etc. provides new and significant information that is not readily obtainable in the every day lives of individuals. The topic is of great importance in view of the fact that at any given year, rheumatoid arthritis is affecting roughly one percent of the world’s population, and no age group is immune from it. The facts basically imply that family members, friends, and together with the author may well be very susceptible of acquiring the disease. As such, the topic helped the author become conscious and prepared against any unexpected attack of the disease.

 In addition, not only did the topic enlighten the author of the fact that there are several medical conditions that resembles rheumatoid arthritis, but also the significance of the need to differentiate the disease at the time of diagnosis. By doing so the disease can be taken cared of as early as possible thus averting bone erosion from taking place. Overall, the topic is very helpful and can easily set off both serious researcher and ephemeral curious reader to continue and conduct further study and examination on the topic.

What are Learned from the Research

The author learns that in the United States alone, roughly two million people suffer from rheumatoid arthritis annually. However, to date there is no single test that is capable of being developed to detect rheumatoid arthritis. The disease is a diagnosis that is accomplished in the course of scientific assessment with the aid of laboratory and non-laboratory examination. The disease can strike without warning or it can commence exceptionally slow. Up to now, rheumatoid arthritis has no treatment, and as a result, patients with the disease have a shorter life span, usually three to seven years of existence lesser (Answers.com, 2009).

The objectives with the present treatment procedures of rheumatoid arthritis are to maintain the usefulness of joints, to hold back the disease, to reduce inflammation and pain, and to reduce joint complications and damage. Treatment for every patient varies and often varies over time. To reduce permanent joint damage, treatment should be given as immediately as possible, which normally involves taking more than one medicine.

The author further learns that it is important for patients to work with their primary care physician and their rheumatologist to manage their subsequent care and for them to take advantage of the latest available treatments. Nonetheless, there are still several self-care measures that can promptly assist patients to cope with their distresses, such as regular exercise, healthy diet, joint protection, using assistive devices, regular application of heat and cold compress, and finding ways to relax to control the stress and pain.


Given that rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease that has damaging effects equally on role functioning and physical activity, the implications of the disease for the physical and mental health of adolescents are extraordinary. Unfortunately, there is no acknowledged method in averting the development of rheumatoid arthritis. The most that can be anticipated is to slow or prevent its development. But lack of social support and other life stresses can only cause more relentless rheumatoid arthritis pain.

In view of these facts, scientists all over the world must examine and study numerous promising areas of latest treatment methods for the disease. In addition, studies that exploit gene selection examinations to verify which person will be more vulnerable of the disease must also be continued and supported. All of these endeavors must persist given the availability of numerous modern technologies and the growing information of the disease. With continuous effort to improve rheumatoid arthritis management, it will be expected that in the near future human race will be at the doorstep of remarkable developments in ways of handling the disease.


Answers.com (2009). Rheumatoid Arthritis. Retrieved February 25, 2009, from http://www.answers.com/topic/rheumatoid-arthritis

Annals of Rheumatic Diseases. (2008, March28). Clinical and Epidemiological Research. Retrieved February 25, 2009, from http://ard.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/68/1/63

Costenbader, K.H, Chang, S., Laden, F., Puett, R., & Karlson, E.W. (2008). Geographic Variation in Rheumatoid Arthritis Incidence Among Women in the United States. Archives of Internal Medicine, 168, 1664-1670.

Lab Tests Online. (2006, September 30). Rheumatoid Arthritis. Retrieved February 24, 2009, from http://www.labtestsonline.org/understanding/conditions/rheumatoid.html

MayoClinic. (2008, September 18). Rheumatoid Arthritis. Retrieved February 24, 2009, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/rheumatoid-arthritis/DS00020

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. (2005, May). What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis? Fast Facts: An Easy-to-Read Series of Publications for the Public. Retrieved February 24, 2009, from http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Rheumatic_Disease/rheumatoid_arthritis_ff.asp

Packham, J.C. (2006). Musculoskeletal Care. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Wrong Diagnosis (2009, February 11). What is Rheumatoid Arthritis? Retrieved February 24, 2009, from http://www.wrongdiagnosis.com/r/rheumatoid_arthritis/basics.htm#whatis



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