For my STEAM project, I decided to look into how arthritis affects the body as a whole, as well as affects joint movement. The artistic portion of this project is comprised of the video embedded below. While short, it goes through the basic joint movements as well as some extreme cases of full-body joint movement.

As we have learned about and discussed arthritis, this project will be written in such a way that assumes you have general knowledge of arthritis, apart from precise data. In its simplest explanation, the CDC states that arthritis refers to inflammation or swelling of one or more joints. There are reportedly more than 100 variants of arthritis have been reported. While this number seems high, it really isn’t that many when put into perspective. A study taken from 1999-2014 states that nearly one-quarter of American adults reported some form of arthritis, and a large portion of that was classified as osteoarthritis, followed by rheumatoid arthritis, and then other smaller subsets. (Park, et al., 2018)

The cause of Osteoarthritis (OA) is multi-factorial and includes joint injury, obesity, aging, and heredity. (Chen, et al., 2017). While these all play into the cause, they are also risk factors for future activity. Age is by far the most common risk factor. It can affect things such as synovium, joint tissues, and subchondral bone and muscle. As obesity becomes an increasingly larger problem, it’s been noted that obesity can cause low-grade systemic inflammation. The inflammation may trigger an articular chondrocyte catabolic process. This leads to the degradation of the extracellular matrix. (Chen, et al., 2017)

Shifting our focus over to rheumatoid arthritis (RA), it is important to recognize that RA is very different from OA. While OA is the degradation of the cartilage that caps our bones, RA is an autoimmune disease. It causes the immune system to attack healthy joints. This starts with the lining of the joints. There are several externally visible factors that serve as markers to differentiate the two. RA is relatively symmetrical, whereas OA affects one side of the body. RA patients also struggle with morning stiffness for around an hour (nearly twice that of OA patients). As with OA, there is sadly no cure for RA. But just because there isn’t a cure, does not mean there are no treatment options that minimize pain and suffering.

In regards to minimizing pain, the root of the problem lies within joint inflammation. So the logical first step would be to investigate anti-inflammatory drugs. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are considered highly effective in large enough doses. They are fast-acting and have fewer side effects than steroid-based medications. That being said, corticosteroids are more potent and are used in small doses, typically in the form of an injection into the joint. (Bullock, et al., 2018)

Early detection of both OA, and RA is critical to preventing a painful future full of serious damage, loss of function, and potential bodily deformation. Analysis of gene arrays has been known to assist in early detection, as well as provide insight into which medications would serve the patient best.

Bullock, J., Rizvi, S. A. A., Saleh, A. M., Ahmed, S. S., Do, D. P., Ansari, R. A., & Ahmed, J. (2018). Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Brief Overview of the Treatment. Medical principles and practice : international journal of the Kuwait University, Health Science Centre, 27(6), 501–507.

Chen, D., Shen, J., Zhao, W., Wang, T., Han, L., Hamilton, J. L., & Im, H. J. (2017). Osteoarthritis: toward a comprehensive understanding of pathological mechanism. Bone research, 5, 16044.

Park, J., Mendy, A., & Vieira, E. R. (2018). Various Types of Arthritis in the United States: Prevalence and Age-Related Trends From 1999 to 2014. American journal of public health, 108(2), 256–258.

One Comment

  1. The video of the project depicts the basic movements that the body can execute and how they lead to more complex movements when simultaneously in action. It seems that the purpose of the video is to show what the human body is capable of when joint movement is not limited by arthritis. The statement of the project dives into more depth regarding the effects of arthritis on joint mobility. There is a focus on the common forms of arthritis, causes of those forms of arthritis, and possible methods for treating them.

    Liam describes the most common forms of arthritis: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the degradation of the caps of our bones. The main causes of osteoarthritis are joint injury, obesity, aging, and heredity. Rheumatoid arthritis is different because it is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks joints. Both forms are treatable, mainly through mitigation of inflammation.

    James Shelley

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