Aches of Arthri­tis

Diet and weight con­trol vi­tal, younger gen­er­a­tions un­der as­sault

Times of the Islands - - Departments -

Your joints hurt, you’re not a kid any­more and you sus­pect arthri­tis may be in play. So you con­sult Dr. Google and find the Arthri­tis Foun­da­tion. Ex­am­in­ing the non­profit’s web­site ex­plain­ing what symp­toms may in­di­cate it’s time to see a liv­ing, breath­ing doc­tor ―such as joint pain, swelling and stiff­ness― you click on “Arthri­tis Types.” And be­fore you is an amaz­ingly long list of more than 100 dis­eases and con­di­tions found un­der the arthri­tis um­brella.

By far the most com­mon and fa­mil­iar of these is os­teoarthri­tis, the “wear and tear” con­di­tion we of­ten as­so­ciate with ag­ing that af­fects car­ti­lage or the cush­ion in a joint. There are about 27 mil­lion Amer­i­cans with some form of os­teoarthri­tis, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

What’s scary is that os­teoarthri­tis is to­day doc­u­mented in much younger peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to a prom­i­nent Cana­dian study and lo­cal and state ex­perts. Although greater aware­ness of the con­di­tion may ac­count for some in­crease in di­ag­noses, there are other fac­tors push­ing the num­bers up.

One is obe­sity. Those deemed as se­verely obese ―de­fined as 100 pounds or more over an ideal weight or with a body mass in­dex, or BMI, of 40 or more ―were 2.5 times more likely than those of nor­mal weight ranges to have some form of arthri­tis, ac­cord­ing to a Toronto study re­ported in the jour­nal Arthri­tis Care & Re­search.

Mike Singer, di­rec­tor for the Arthri­tis Foun­da­tion’s Tampa of­fice, which serves South­west Florida, says arthri­tis is a con­sis­tent is­sue in the Sun­shine State, point­ing out that Florida’s older pop­u­la­tion skews the num­bers, but there’s also a high num­ber of ac­tive mil­i­tary and vet­er­ans. “One out of three ac­tive or re­tired mil­i­tary peo­ple has arthri­tis,” Singer says. “They’re car­ry­ing weapons, tools, back­packs … it’s the No. 1 med­i­cal rea­son for med­i­cal dis­charge, be­sides com­bat in­jury.” That’s one of the ways the “wear-and-tear” fac­tor comes into play. An­other is sports in­juries, says Dr. Brian Healy, prac­tic­ing on Sani­bel. “We’re re­al­iz­ing that in­juries in high im­pact sports can seem like noth­ing at the time, but even a mi­nor in­jury to a bone will lead to cal­cium buildup,” which causes an­other hall­mark of os­teoarthri­tis: bone spurs, he adds. “And it’s ab­so­lutely hap­pen­ing younger,” Healy says. “With so many chronic ill­nesses now, where you used to see [nearly ex­clu­sively] peo­ple in their 60s and 70s, it's pretty com­mon to see peo­ple in their 40s and 50s, even in their 20s, with os­teoarthri­tis." In ad­di­tion to in­juries and obe­sity, Healy points to diet as an­other cause of os­teoarthri­tis. “The big prob­lem is acid­ity,” he says. “We’re eat­ing too much protein. Too many an­i­mal prod­ucts. The way we reg­u­late our­selves is that if you be­come too acidic, for in­stance, your body will ac­tu­ally take some cal­cium out of the bones to nor­mal­ize.”

IT'S PRETTY COM­MON TO SEE PEO­PLE IN THEIR 40S AND 50S, EVEN IN THEIR 20S, WITH OS­TEOARTHRI­TIS."

—DR. BRIAN HEALY, SANI­BEL

No mat­ter what causes os­teoarthri­tis, treat­ment tar­gets the pain and swelling. Healy treats these symp­toms with an anti-in­flam­ma­tory diet and sup­ple­ments, acupunc­ture and Far In­frared Ra­di­a­tion ther­apy ―a spe­cial type of heat lamp that emits a band­width of in­frared light re­ported to have heal­ing prop­er­ties. Like any treat­ment, home re­search and talk­ing with

a doc­tor is rec­om­mended.

In re­cent years some pa­tients have turned to pro­lother­apy ―in­volv­ing in­jec­tions of an ir­ri­tant such as phe­nol, hy­per­tonic dex­trose, glyc­erin or other sub­stances into a joint that re­port­edly cause the body to re­spond by grow­ing more soft tis­sue. Fort My­ers physi­cian Ross Hauser was the first in South­west Florida to of­fer this ther­apy, which is es­pe­cially pop­u­lar with elite ath­letes.

More tra­di­tional treat­ments for os­teoarthri­tis in­clude anti-in­flam­ma­tory and pain med­i­ca­tions and steroid in­jec­tions, as well as surgery. Reg­u­lar ex­er­cise is nearly al­ways rec­om­mended as a way to keep the stiff­ness, pain and in­flam­ma­tion of os­teoarthri­tis un­der con­trol.

WHAT’S SCARY IS THAT OS­TEOARTHRI­TIS IS TO­DAY DOC­U­MENTED IN MUCH YOUNGER PEO­PLE.

Dayna Harpster is a writer, ed­i­tor and ac­cred­ited pub­lic re­la­tions pro­fes­sional liv­ing in South­west Florida.

OTHER COM­MON ARTHRI­TIS TYPES

Some types of arthri­tis are con­sid­ered in­flam­ma­tory forms.

Rheuma­toid arthri­tis, pso­ri­atic arthri­tis, anky­los­ing spondyli­tis, ju­ve­nile id­io­pathic arthri­tis and lu­pus are gen­er­ally treated with 10 dif­fer­ent types of med­i­ca­tions in or­der to pre­vent joint and or­gan dam­age.

If you sus­pect you may have any type of arthri­tis, con­sult your pri­mary care doc­tor, who can rec­om­mend an­other spe­cial­ist, such as a rheuma­tol­o­gist or an or­tho­pe­dist, if nec­es­sary.

The Arthri­tis Foun­da­tion has apps to track symp­toms, ex­er­cise and other helpers, plus plenty of in­for­ma­tion, at arthri­tis.org.

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