Degenerative disorders occur when a certain part of the body, such as bodily tissues or an organ, gradually begins to deteriorate over a period of time, thus resulting in the tissue’s or organ’s failure to function properly and may even result in the entire body malfunctioning. There are many types of factors that may cause degenerative disorders. These include things such as infection, disease, a deficiency in the circulation, inflammation and even possibly, problems with the body’s natural immune system.
A simple example of degeneration is the wrinkling of the skin, as we get older. This is due to the degeneration of the skin tissue and will take many years to progress although particular factors may speed this process up. These could be things like prolonged and regular exposure to the sun and frequently using a sun bed. There are many other degenerative disorders, some are unfortunately quite common like arthritis and cancer.
Arthritis is a debilitating inflammatory disease of the joints, with the symptoms being pain, stiffness and swelling. Sadly, as with the majority of degenerative disorders, there is no cure and nothing that can be done to prevent its progression, although there are a few treatments that help to relieve the symptoms and slow down the development of the disease, for instance, anti-inflammatory drugs and ultrasound. There are two common forms of arthritis – Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is the most severe and will affect around one in a hundred people, with the cause being swollen membranes of the joints.
Osteoarthritis is the commonest form arthritis and one in ten people will suffer from it. Those that are at a greater risk from developing osteoarthritis, are those that have been involved in a lot of vigorous sports or exercises that puts strain on the joints. Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis is caused by the wearing away of the membranes of the joints. Arthritis is often associated with the older generation, however, anyone of any age or gender could be struck down with the disease, including children under the age of sixteen. Juvenile chronic arthritis affects around a thousand children and begins with an acute ‘flu’ like illness that causes the joints to become stiff, swollen and painful. The majority of suffers will recover from this particular type of arthritis on their own.
Cancer also affects people at any age and is probably one of the most common causes of death. Cancer is a group of uncontrollable abnormal cells, otherwise known as a malignant tumour that invades the surrounding tissues and destroys them, no matter how much the body tries to prevent the cells from growing. Cancer cells may spread to different parts of the body in a process known as metastasis via the bloodstream or the lymphatic system, thus setting up secondary growths elsewhere. There are many different types of cancer dependant upon where the cells have grown. This can be anywhere on or in the body ranging from the brain and the lungs to the genitals and even the skin, as well as any other internal organs.
One form of cancer that is the commonest form in women is breast cancer (mammary carcinoma being the technical term). One in eleven people will suffer this illness at some point in their life. The first sign of breast cancer is usually a painless lump either in the breast or if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, then the lump may appear in the armpit, however a lump is not always the first sign. The breast suddenly changing shape, the nipple altering in appearance and a change in the texture of the breast are also signs. Only one breast is usually affected and like many other cancers, the actual cause of breast cancer is unclear, though women who have had a close relative such as a mother or sister who have had the disease are more at risk of contracting the disease themselves. Breast cancer is part of the group of tumours that spreads to other parts of the body.
If the cancer is found early enough, then the tumour can be removed by surgery (lumpectomy) and in addition, other treatments such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy and hormone therapy will help to eradicate the cancer altogether and hopefully it will not return. Unfortunately, the return of the cancer is possible and if it does return in a more aggressive form or if it is found in the later stages, then a mastectomy may have to be preformed. A mastectomy involves the removal of the breast that is affected with cancer. Despite the fact that this is a major operation and an extreme change in a females anatomy, women will generally suffer less psychological harm than only having a lumpectomy, as there is less chance of a recurrence and therefore less anxiety.
Breast cancer is usually associated with women and often goes unnoticed that men can also just as easily suffer with breast cancer as they have a small amount of breast tissue under the nipple, it is therefore important that, not only women, but men as well, check there breasts for any abnormalities on a regular basis. This can be done by themselves in their own home in front of a mirror or by having a mammogram. Ten years ago, the death rate from breast cancer was high until the discovery of Tamoxifen.
Tamoxifen is a drug that prevents oestrogen acting in the breast tissue. This blocking effect prevents tumours from growing more rapidly. Together with the treatments available today and the campaigns to make people aware of the signs, thankfully the death rate of breast cancer has been dramatically reduced in the last ten years. Another form of cancer that is also usually diagnosed with a painless lump is testicular cancer, which is cancer of the male’s sex gland – the testicle or testis. There are two main types of this cancer.
The first being seminomas, which usually affect the older age generation and is the least serious while the second one is the most common and is known as teratomas and affects males between the ages of twenty and forty. Other cancers that may develop in the testicles are embryomas, choriocarcinomas and a few other ones that are rare. As with breast cancer, men should check themselves regularly for any lumps or abnormalities.
This should ideally be done in a warm bath as the scrotum will be relaxed in this atmosphere and the contents will be easily felt. If a lump is felt, then medical advice should be sought straight away, as this kind of cancer is easily treatable if caught in the early stages. Other types of cancer include Hodgkin’s disease – cancer of the lymphoid tissue and Leukaemia – cancer of the organs that produce white blood cells, for example, lymphatic system or the marrow of some bones. A sarcoma is a cancerous growth of the connective tissues, such as cartilage, tendons, ligaments and muscles.
Probably one of the most familiar degenerative disorders is Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s was first discovered by James Parkinson in the late eighteenth century, hence the name. The disease is also referred to as Parkinsonism, paralysis agitans and shaking palsy and is one of the common causes of tremor in the elderly. The main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are tremor and slow movements, rigidity, slow walking, taking short jerky steps and with the arms hanging down the side of the body, the face may be expressionless and they may have unblinking eyes. In established Parkinson’s, the sufferer is unable to get out of their chair, will often fall when standing, they will have a lack of coordination and develops minute handwriting.
The tremors in someone suffering from the disease are more noticeable in their hands and their head will nod backwards and forwards rhythmically. As the intelligence and mental powers of victims are not affected in the early stages, it is therefore not surprising that Parkinson’s is often accompanied by depression, frustration, anxiety and emotional stress, particularly when their speech is impaired.