Diseases of the Skeletal, Integumentary, and Nervous Systems
The human body is made up of nine systems at the organ system level. These nine systems are made up of organs that have certain structures that promote functioning together, and similar functions and the systems working together constitute an organism. Diseases that affect three of these nine systems, the skeletal system, the integumentary system, and the nervous system is the focus of this essay.
Skeletal System Disease: Osteoporosis
Epidemiology and Causes
Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens the bones due to a decrease in the density of bones, making bones fracture easily and more likely. Osteoporosis occurs as a result of inactivity, low calcium level (decrease in vitamin D or calcium intake), aging, and estrogen deficiency (low circulating sex hormones), causing bones to weaken. Certain disorders can also deplete the amounts of the components that assist in maintaining the density and strength of bone. The symptoms of osteoporosis may not be noticed until a bone fracture occurs. These fractures may occur with after a minor fall, or with little or no force applied, as opposed to when the same force is applied to healthy bones, and the force does not lead to the bone fracture. Diagnosis for people at risk of osteoporosis is done by testing their bone density. Osteoporosis can be prevented by managing risk factors through sufficient intake of adequate calcium and vitamin D, and engaging in weight-bearing exercises, and it can be treated by taking bisphosphonates or calcium supplements that improve Vitamin D levels in the bones of the body, and also doing exercises that include weight-bearing activity.
Bones contain calcium and phosphorus, these are minerals which make bones hard and dense, which is a necessary weight-bearing structure to support the human body. To maintain bone density for support and other functions, the bones of the body require an adequate supply of calcium, and an adequate supply of vitamin D from food diet and manufacturing in the skin using sunlight, in order to absorb calcium from food and integrate it into the bones. For bone maintenance, there must also be adequate production of the proper amounts of several hormones, such as parathyroid hormone, calcitonin, estrogen, and testosterone.
Bones are continually broken down by osteoclast cells and reformed, in order to adjust to the necessary support required of them, and changing demands placed on them. This process is called remodeling, and in this process, small areas of bone tissue are taken out continuously, and new bone tissue is also continually deposited. Remodeling, therefore, affects the shape of the bones and their density, making bones grow in width and in length as the body grows during adolescence, and sometimes expand in width later life, without growing longer. Bone formation rate in young adults is higher than the rate at which bones are broken down, therefore there is a progressive increase in the density of bones until about the age of 30 when the bones are at their strongest. As aging occurs, breakdown of bones exceeds its formation, and the density of bones slowly decreases, and if the body does not maintain adequate bone formation by an adequate supply of vitamin D, and exercising, bones will continue to lose density and may become fragile, and eventually result in osteoporosis
Types of Osteoporosis
There are two main types of osteoporosis, these are Primary osteoporosis and Secondary osteoporosis. Primary osteoporosis mostly occurs when bone loses its density, and it occurs spontaneously, while secondary osteoporosis is majorly caused by another disorder or by intake of a drug.
Major causes of primary osteoporosis include deficiency of estrogen, increasing the likelihood of bone breakdown and rapid bone loss, in men and women, with the effect more obvious in women, due to the rapid decrease that occurs during menopause, but low levels of male sex hormones also contribute to osteoporosis in men. Another cause of bone loss in primary osteoporosis is low levels of calcium intake or low levels of vitamin D, resulting in calcium deficiency, and thirdly, increased activity of the parathyroid glands leading to the glands to releasing too much parathyroid hormone, therefore stimulating bone breakdown. Other factors include the use of certain drugs, smoking, use of heavy alcohol, and a family history of osteoporosis.
Secondary osteoporosis results from existing disorders, Examples of these disorders include chronic kidney diseases and hormonal disorders, for example, Cushing disease, hyperparathyroidism, and diabetes mellitus. Secondary osteoporosis could also be certain types of cancer, for example, multiple myeloma, and other diseases for example rheumatoid arthritis. Other causes of secondary osteoporosis include the use of drugs such as antiseizure drugs, chemotherapy drugs, and progesterone, excessive consumption of alcohol and caffeine, and cigarette smoking.
Symptoms and Prognosis of Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis might not be obvious at first, because bone density loss is gradual, and some people do not develop symptoms. Bones that tend to break (fracture) is an indication of osteoporosis, and fractures tend to heal slowly in people that develop osteoporosis, and this may lead to deformities, for example, curvature of the spine. When people have had bone breakage due to osteoporosis, they tend to be at a higher risk of having more of such fractures. Fractures that occur on the nose, collarbone, and ribs are, however not considered to be the result of osteoporosis.
Prevention and Treatment
Osteoporosis prevention is generally more successful than its treatment, as it is easier to prevent bone loss density than to restore bone density once it is lost. Prevention involves the management of risk factors, including avoiding excessive consumption of alcohol and caffeine, consuming adequate amounts of vitamin D, and engaging in weight-bearing exercises. People that cannot consume the daily recommendation of vitamin D from diet alone, would need to take supplements to make up for the deficiency. Other measures include the prevention of fractures. Treatments administered to patients that develop osteoporosis include ensuring that adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D which helps the body absorb calcium, is consumed, and engaging in exercises that will improve bone density. When treating people that develop osteoporosis, doctors administer certain drugs and manage the conditions that could worsen the condition. treatment is usually recommended.
Integumentary System Disease: Melanoma
Epidemiology and Causes
Melanoma is a skin cancer that has its origins from the pigment-producing cells in the skin, known as melanocytes. Melanoma might affect normal skin or begin in existing moles on the skin. They appear as irregular, raised, or flat patches on the skin with either spot of different coloration, or blackish gray lumps. In order to diagnose melanoma, doctors must do a biopsy. Melanomas are then removed surgically, but if the melanoma has already spread, chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy are then used, but the complete cure is difficult. Melanocytes, which are the cells that produce pigment in the skin, produce melanin, the pigment that darkens the skin and gives the skin its distinctive color. Sunlight act as a stimulant to melanocytes, encouraging further production of more melanin but also increasing the risk of developing melanoma, which normally appears on normal skin like a new, small, pigmented growth, and this growth most often occurs on sun-exposed areas. Melanomas readily metastasize (spread) to other areas of the body, where it grows continually, destroying tissues.
Types of Melanomas
There are two most common types of melanomas, these are superficial spreading melanoma and nodular melanoma. The former accounts for about 70 percent of reported cases of melanoma and occurs mainly on women's legs and men's trunks while the latter accounts for about 30 percent, grow very rapidly, and appear anywhere on the body. People that had melanoma are more likely to develop new melanomas. Melanomas are not very common among dark-skinned people and when it does occur, it develops most often on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, and in the nail beds. Melanomas are also very rare in children, except for congenital melanocytic nevus, which is a patch of skin that is dark-colored and present at birth, resembling a birthmark, which could lead to malignant melanoma if the size is big.
Symptoms and Prognosis
Melanomas vary in appearance and size, some are flat and irregular, and the brown areas contain small black spots, while others are swollen brown patches resembling keloids, and has spots that are colored red, white, black, or blue. Some melanomas look like a firm red, black, or gray lump. Amelanotic melanomas, which does not produce pigment may be pink, red, or slightly light brown. Developing a new mole, or changes in an existing mole, for example, enlargement with an irregular border, darkening of areas of the skin, inflammation and spotty color changes, bleeding, itching, tenderness, and pain may be warning signs of possible melanomas. If melanoma is suspected, then a biopsy is done, all or part of the growth is removed and the sample examined under a microscope, to determine whether the growth is melanoma. If the biopsy shows that the growth is a melanoma and the growth has not been completely removed, all the cancer must be removed.
Prevention and Treatment
Melanoma is mainly developed due to long-term exposure to sunlight, it therefore might be prevented, starting in early childhood, by avoiding the direct glare of the sun by seeking shade, and reducing outdoor activities, especially between 11 AM and 3 PM when the sun's rays are normally strongest, wearing protective clothing and using sunscreen; at least sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 with UVA and UVB protection applied as directed, and reapplied every 2 hours, and skin examinations at least once a year, especially for people who have many moles on their bodies. Treatment involves removal of the tumors for people who have shallow melanomas (known as melanoma in situ), and immunotherapy, targeted therapy, which entails the use of drugs that attack a cancer cell's inherent biological mechanism, or radiation therapy for tumors that have spread to localized areas. If melanoma has metastasized to further distant areas, however, surgery is generally not an option, mainly chemotherapy is used to treat melanomas that have spread, but the complete cure may not be possible.
Nervous System Disease: Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Epidemiology and Causes
Multiple Sclerosis is a disease of the nervous system, the term refers to many areas of scarring (sclerosis) and it occurs when patches of myelin sheath (this is a substance covering more nerve fibers) and other nerve fibers found in the brain, optic nerves, and the spinal cord are either damaged or destroyed. This destruction is called demyelination. The cause of damage is not known but may likely be exposure early in life to viruses or unknown substances that somehow trigger the body’s immune system to attack its own tissues damaging the myelin sheath underlying nerve fibers, known as autoimmune reaction, this results in inflammation. Genes and environment may also have a role in multiple sclerosis, therefore having a parent or sibling with multiple sclerosis may increase the risk of developing the disease. Over time, multiple sclerosis gradually worsens, but at its onset, periods of good health alternate with bouts of sickness brought about by the disease. Experiences of people that have multiple sclerosis include vision problems and abnormal sensations, also weak and clumsy movements. Life span is usually not affected, except when the disorder is quite severe but over time, the brain may start to shrink in size due to axons being destroyed. Mostly, multiple sclerosis affects people within the ages of 20 and 40, but it can also affect those within the ages 15 and 60 years. It is known to be more common in women and is uncommon among children.
Patterns of Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple Sclerosis often progresses and regresses unpredictably, typical patterns of the disease include;
- Relapsing-remitting pattern: Relapses, defined by worsening symptoms occurring spontaneously, alternate with remissions defined by symptoms lessening or not worsening and lasting for months or years.
- Primary progressive pattern: Multiple Sclerosis progresses gradually with no obvious remissions or relapses, with temporary highs when the disease does not progress.
- Secondary progressive pattern: This pattern starts with relapses alternating with remissions much like the first pattern, followed by a gradual progression of multiple sclerosis.
- Progressive relapsing pattern: The disease progresses gradually, with sudden relapses interrupting progression.
Symptoms and Prognosis
Symptoms vary extensively for individuals, and from period to period in one person, depending on the set of nerve fibers that are demyelinated: if sensory nerve fibers that carry information become demyelinated, sensory symptoms result, causing problems with sensations. If motor nerve fibers sending signals to the muscles become demyelinated, motor symptoms result causing problems with movement. Early symptoms of multiple sclerosis include tingling and burning sensations, numbness, pain, reduction in sense of touch, and itching in certain parts of the body such as the arms, trunk, legs, or face. Other symptoms include dim or blurred vision, stiffness in leg or hand, and imbalance in walking causing gait to be affected. Dizziness, fatigue, and vertigo are also common in multiple sclerosis, and excessive warmth including warm weather, or a fever may temporarily worsen symptoms.
Later symptoms of multiple sclerosis involve shaky, irregular, movements, partial or complete paralysis, spasticity when weak muscles contract involuntarily, and painful cramps. All these symptoms may lead to interference in walking and general body movement in people, and people who cannot walk tend to develop osteoporosis, which is decreased bone density. Late symptoms also include slow, slurred speech, inability to control emotional responses leading to inappropriate laughter or crying, impaired thinking, and depression.
Multiple Sclerosis also affects the nerves controlling bowel movements and urination, leading to frequent and involuntary passage of urine, fecal incontinence, which is passing stool involuntarily, urinary retention, which is the inability to empty the bladder completely, and urinary tract infections due to the fact that retained urine is a breeding ground for bacteria.
Treatment for multiple sclerosis is not uniformly effective, but ingestion of drugs that could prevent the immune system from attacking the myelin sheaths can be consumed. These drugs assist in reduction of the number of future relapses and some examples are Interferon-beta and Glatiramer acetate injections, Mitoxantrone, which is a chemotherapy drug, and Natalizumab which is an antibody that is given intravenously. These can help to reduce the frequency at which relapses occur and slow the progression of the disease. Corticosteroids are most often used for acute attacks. These work by suppressing the immune system, are administered for short periods to help in relieving the immediate symptoms that interfere with functioning, for example, loss of vision, or coordination. Corticosteroids, however, only shorten relapses and slows the progression of multiple sclerosis, but do not entirely stop the disease’s progression. Corticosteroids can also have numerous side effects, including increased susceptibility to infection, diabetes mellitus, weight gain that might lead to obesity, osteoporosis, fatigue, and ulcers, they are rarely used for a long time, but rather as needed. Other treatments include plasma exchange for severe relapses that corticosteroids cannot control and stem cell transplantation. Maintaining an active lifestyle by getting involved in regular exercises such as walking, swimming, or stretching could help people with multiple sclerosis, although they may tire easily, this also reduces spasticity and assists in the maintenance of cardiovascular and psychological health.
Physical therapy can help with balance maintenance, can help reduce spasticity and weakness of limbs, muscle tone, general movement, and the ability to walk. People with multiple sclerosis should be encouraged to walk on their own for as long as possible, as doing so will improve their quality of life and prevent depression. Avoiding extremely high temperatures, for example, hot baths or showers, and very warm weather might also help during the repression of multiple sclerosis as heat tends to worsen symptoms. In addition, people who become too weak and unable to move about easily may tend to develop pressure sores, extra care must be taken to prevent the sores from occurring, by constantly shifting positions and assisting them to stand or sit upright as often as possible. Disabled people can be rehabilitated with occupational, physical, and speech therapy.
Several diseases impact the body due to the genes inherited from parents, lifestyle, and exposure to harmful substances. Early detection of these diseases could assist in better chances of curing the disease in its early stage, prevention of related secondary symptoms, reducing the risk of rapid deterioration, and increased life span.