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Insider Arthritis Tips, June 2008- Arthritis Facts... and Myths
June 15, 2008

Achy... blame it on the weather... or can't you?

This first issue will be devoted to exploring some of the myths that surround arthritis.

Sometimes myths may have a kernel of truth. Sometimes they are just plain wrong. And sometimes they are correct.

A condition like arthritis, because it's so common is surrounded by many myths. So let's examine a few of these right now...

Myth #1: “Nothing can be done about arthritis...”

This is one of the most dangerous myths because you don’t have to put up with arthritis. Now more than ever, there are excellent medicines that can not only treat the symptoms but also, in many cases, get the disease into remission. Arthritis when diagnosed and treated properly can be controlled.

Myth #2: “It’s all due to getting old...”

The truth? Arthritis affects all age groups. Arthritis can even affect children. Three out of every 5 people with arthritis are younger than 65 years!

Myth #3: “If I wait, it’ll go away...”

This is another potentially deadly myth. Six million Americans believe they have arthritis but have never seen a physician! And when you talk about a disease like rheumatoid arthritis which has serious life-threatening complications such as early heart attack, early stroke, and lymphoma associated with it, following the "Ignore it... it'll go away" myth is foolish. A proper diagnosis and treatment are important! Who doesn’t want to see their children graduate or play with their grandchildren? It’s a choice many Americans make every day.

Myth #4: “Arthritis medicines have too many side-effects...”

Yes... This is one of those myths that has a kernel of truth (OK...a big kernel of truth behind it.) Many of these medicines do have potential side-effects! Witness the latest flap over the COX 2 drugs. But...When properly monitored by an arthritis specialist, the chances for severe side-effects are much much lower! Let’s face it... any medicine you take has potential side-effects. What you and your physician have to determine is this: Are the potential side-effects- which by the way are relatively uncommon despite what the media would have you believe- worth my quality of life?

Myth # 5: “I’ll never get arthritis...”

Seventy million people in the United States (25% of the population) suffer from arthritis!” Also, arthritis strikes 750,000 new people a year. More than 97% of people over 50 will get arthritis. Just because you don’t have symptoms now doesn’t mean you won’t get symptoms soon.

Myth # 6: "It’s just aches and pains... Nothing I can’t live with..."

Arthritis is the #1 cause of loss of personal freedom. More than 100,000 Americans can’t walk independently from their bed to the bathroom because of arthritis. Ten million Americans are limited in their daily activities because of arthritis. Arthritis is the:

* leading cause of physician visits in adults over 65

* most common chronic disease

* most common cause of crippling

* most common cause of impairment and functional limitation in adults

Myth # 7: “My doctor can take care of arthritis...”

Unless your physician is a rheumatologist who remains active on the cutting edge of new research, there is no way he or she can “take care” of this condition. There has been a literal explosion of new diagnostic procedures and treatments in the last five years. These treatments can make the difference between a life filled with joy and a life filled with dread. Sure... this sounds self-serving but if you or someone you care about has arthritis, go to a rheumatologist.

Myth #8 "Weather changes make my arthritis worse..."

This is totally true. Experiments done by Dr. Joseph Hollander at the University of Pennysylvania almost 60 years ago and confirmed by a number of other investigators have revealed that barometric pressure changes can influence joint symptoms. In fact, I rely on my patients to tell me what's going to happen more than I rely on the weatherpeople on TV. I know there are academic rheumatologists who may disagree. Hey, they're entitled to their opinion.

Arthritis tip of the month:

You need a moist heating pad but don't have one?

Try this...

Put a wet towel inside a ziploc plastic bag. Don't seal the bag. Put it in the microwave on high for 2 minutes. Take the plastic bag out, leaving the hot wet towel inside the bag. Wrap the entire bag with another moist towel. You now have a moist heating pad that'll last for about 20 minutes!

That's it for this month.

I'll be back next month with more news.

Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR

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Insider Arthritis Tips A monthly ezine on arthritis written by a board-certified rheumatologist with tons of excellent and useful information for anyone interested in arthritis

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