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This post was very difficult for me to publish. I feel very vulnerable with it. Which is weird. I’ve been blogging for over a year and this is actually a paper that I wrote for my immunology class. The assignment was to write about anything related to immunology, geared towards a non-science audience. What you see below is my paper, word for word, although I edited the “further reading” section to be more accessible.
The reason this is so difficult to publish is because this is something I have recently become passionate about: natural treatment and prevention of autoimmune disease. I don’t know a lot about it, as I am just learning, but I plan to continue researching. Maybe one day I will even write an e-book on the topic. So I truly want your input on this paper and topic. Would you like to see more things like this?
Rheumatoid Arthritis: Hope for the Future
I am writing a brief article, such as may be found on a website, aimed at those who have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and their families in order to help them better understand the disease and their options.
If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you may have a lot of questions. How did I get this disease? How can it be treated? How can it be prevented? What will my life look like from here on out? Every year, doctors and researchers are learning more and more about RA, and the outlook for those afflicted continues to improve. With proper understanding of the disease and treatment, you will soon be able to begin the road to recovery.
What is RA?
Rheumatoid (roo-ma-toyed) arthritis is an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases occur when the body’s immune system begins to attack itself. In the case of RA, it is the joints that are being attacked, causing inflammation, pain, and damage. While this typically begins in smaller joints, such as hands and feet, RA can attack anywhere in the body, even organs such as the eyes, skin, and lungs. Patients may also experience fever and fatigue.
Individuals with RA produce rheumatoid factors, which act as antibodies that bind to other antibodies. Typically, antibodies play an important role in fighting disease and other invaders. When the immune system is properly functioning, it will recognize the difference between an invader and its own cells and act accordingly. However, with the production of rheumatoid factors, this is not the case. The bound antibodies are then deposited in the joints, where they activate a series of reactions. It is these reactions that cause the chronic inflammation RA patients face.
Rheumatoid arthritis can be diagnosed by the presence of these rheumatoid factors and other antibodies typically found in RA patients. Blood tests that indicate the amount of joint inflammation or anemia (low red blood cell count) may also point to a diagnosis of RA.
How did I get it?
Approximately 1.3 million Americans have rheumatoid arthritis, over 75% of them being women. While RA can strike at any age, most patients are diagnosed between the ages of 40 and 60. Many factors can play into who may develop RA such as gender, genetic background, environmental toxins, and even food sensitivities. Like many autoimmune diseases, one factor alone does not trigger RA, but rather many factors combine to weaken and confuse the immune system until it begins to attack itself. Therefore, at this time an exact cause is not known.
As rheumatoid arthritis progresses, it can spread throughout the body. Most RA patients will have the disease for the rest of their life. RA can shorten the lifespan of a patient by an average of 12 years. However, advances in treatment options show hope for improved lifespan, and a positive response to treatment tends to indicate a better prognosis.
Those afflicted with RA are more likely to develop further autoimmune disorders, as well as conditions such as osteoporosis, carpal tunnel, and heart and lung problems.
Come back on Friday to read Part 2 and learn how to help reduce your RA symptoms and prevent its development.
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