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Insider Arthritis Tips August 2012
August 15, 2012

"I will prepare, and someday my chance will come." -- Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States

August Arthritis News

Pig Tissue To Prevent OA?

Makiko Kitamura reported in Bloomberg News that the company, Tissue Regenix hopes to use tissue from pigs to mimic human tissue. The article explains that "the removal of damaged meniscus tissue is the most common orthopedic procedure in the US and is a major cause of osteoarthritis. While replacing damaged meniscus with donor tissue helps reduce pain and restore normal range of motion, a shortage of donors has limited the scope of such operations." Tissue Regenix technology involves taking animal tissue and removing cellular material from it that would cause humans to reject the implant."

Comment: Oink! The use of animal parts is an option as donor tissue. Obviously, a lot of work needs to be done to ensure safety.

FDA Approves Delayed-Release Prednisone

Peter Frost writing in the Chicago Tribune reported the US Food and Drug Administration approved Horizon Pharma's "new anti-inflammatory drug" Rayos. This a time-released steroid that begins to work about 4 hours after being taken. It is expected to be used to combat the morning stiffness rheumatoid arthritis patients experience.

Comment: Not sure if this is going to be a real help. Prednisone is pretty inexpensive and can be dosed in order to minimize side effects.

People Use Prescription Steroids Without Understanding Risks

Frederik Joelving writing in Reuters reported that more than 2.5 million Americans take prescription oral steroids, often without knowledge of the risks that accompany the drugs, according to a study published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research. Side effects of steroids, like prednisone, include bone loss and risk of fracture. According to Robert Overman, research coordinator at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, patients who take steroids for long periods of time should be on bisphosphonates, which prevent bone thinning, but fewer than one in ten are.

Comment: This is scary because steroids are powerful drugs with many potential side effects.

Joint Replacement Patients Face Higher Heart Attack Risk

Brenda Goodman writing in WebMD reported "Compared to adults of the same age and sex who didn't have joint replacement surgeries, people who had hip replacements were 25 times more likely to have heart attacks, within two weeks of their procedures." Individuals "who had knee replacements were about 30 times more likely to suffer heart attacks in that same time period." The "risks remained even after researchers adjusted their data to account for a variety of things that can increase the risk of heart attacks."

Comment: More things to think about when it comes to joint replacement surgery.

Methotrexate Doesn’t Work for Psoriatic Arthritis?

Nancy Walsh writing in MedPage Today reported on a recent study claiming that methotrexate is ineffective for psoriatic arthritis. "Treatment with methotrexate, the cornerstone disease-modifying therapy in rheumatoid arthritis, had no benefit on synovitis in patients with psoriatic arthritis," according to a placebo-controlled trial led by Gabrielle Kingsley of King's College London. Though "methotrexate has come to be considered a standard treatment in psoriatic arthritis," the study found "no significant effect when overall efficacy was assessed." The study, which followed 221 patients, was published in the journal Rheumatology.

Comment: I disagree with the findings of this study. Methotrexate is still a good drug.

Pain the cause of memory problems in fibromyalgia?

A Korean study (Seo J, et al) indicated that pain may be the reason for the memory issues that occur in patients with fibromyalgia. Forty-one women were enrolled in the study — 19 with fibromyalgia (FM) and 22 healthy participants. The mean ages of the patients were 38.73 years and 38.27 years, respectively. The control group included volunteers who were screened for chronic widespread pain, generalized weakness, sleep disturbance and specific tender points. The patients with FM displayed inferior mean performance compared with controls with specific memory based tests. “… FM patients showed reduced activation in several brain regions which may be associated with impairments in maintenance and manipulation of working memory,” the researchers said. “The working memory deficit found in FM patients may be attributable to differences in neural activation of the frontoparietal memory network and may result from both pain itself and depression and anxiety associated with pain.”

Comment: Regardless of the cause of memory loss, it still is one of the more disturbing symptoms of FM.

X-Ray Changes Predict Knee OA Worsening

Nancy Walsh writing in MedPage Today reported on a study published in Arthritis & Rheumatism that found that "the annual rate at which middle-age women develop knee osteoarthritis (OA) is fairly low, but progression is common when x-ray changes in the joint are already present." The researchers write, "Because of the increasing health burden due to the aging population and a projected 45% lifetime risk of symptomatic knee OA developing, there is an urgent need to understand the natural course of knee OA in order to target preventative therapies and reduce known risk factors for both the incidence and progression of knee OA."

Comment: X-ray is generally not useful until late in the course of disease. However, this study points out a useful tactic for studying the course of the disease.

Lifestyle Changes Fight Off Osteoarthritis

Jane Brody writing in the New York Times reported that "some 27 million Americans have life-limiting osteoarthritis, and the numbers are rising as the population gets older and fatter." One tip the story offers on how to fight off arthritis is to shed extra pounds, noting that "even a loss of 10 to 15 percent of body weight can make a big difference to weight-bearing joints."

Comment: Amen!

Sitting Shortens Your Life

Andrew Seidman writing in the Wall Street Journal reported ona study published in the online BMJ indicating that sitting for three hours per day or longer may reduce an individual's life expectancy. ABC News added “limiting the time Americans spend sitting to three hours or fewer each day would increase the life expectancy of the US population by two years. Cutting down TV watching to fewer than two hours each day would bump life expectancy up by another 1.4 years."

Comment: So... extend your life...get off your hind parts!

Alcohol lowers risk of RA?

Denise Mann writing in Healthday reported on a study published online in the British Medical Journal. The report described a Swedish study that showed that drinking more than three alcoholic beverages a week for at least 10 years may halve a woman's risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. The study included more than 34,000 Swedish women born between 1914 and 1948. Researchers gathered information about their alcohol consumption, diet, smoking history, physical activity and education in 1987 and 1997. Participants were then followed for seven years. During this time, nearly 200 women were diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Women who reported drinking more than three glasses of alcohol per week in both 1987 and 1997 were 52 percent less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than those who didn’t drink. These findings held regardless of whether women consumed wine, spirits or beer. Exactly how alcohol may lower arthritis risk is not fully understood. The researchers speculate that it may alter the immune response and reduce inflammation.

Comment: This study should not be used as an excuse to overindulge. Nonetheless, the findings are interesting.

Turmeric: Natural Arthritis Medication

Laura Johannes writing in the Wall Street Journal reported that a well known ingredient in curry, turmeric, is being used increasingly as a natural arthritis medication. Two studies have shown that the chemical that gives turmeric its bright-yellow color, curcumin, benefits arthritis patients as much as anti-inflammatory drugs, which carry many side effects with extended use. Experts say these results are only preliminary and more studies are needed.

Comment: A very safe alternative treatment.


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Wei’s World August 2012

I’m spoiled. I admit it. And I found out in a big way how spoiled I am when the power went out last month. The electricity stopped on a Friday night and we didn’t get it back until Monday night. My wife was out of town and one of my sons, Benji, and I were the only ones home.

Saturday, it was more than 100 degrees and incredibly humid.

Assuming the power would come back at any time, Benji and I went out to get breakfast. We both figured the fastest way to do it was Mickey D’s. Well… first of all roads all around us were blocked off because of trees and power lines. (picture) Fallen trees and branch limbs were everywhere. And all the traffic lights were out. When that happens you’re supposed to treat them all intersections like four way stops. Some yahoos who didn’t know this or didn’t care just blew right by almost hitting us.

It was eerie. The first McDonald’s we went to was closed… and so was the whole mall. We tried to go to another one but the road was blocked again. Since we live in Laytonsville, we thought maybe the next town over, Olney, would have something. No dice. Everything was closed.

We then drove back in a roundabout fashion. It was like one of those mazes where you have to find the cheese. We finally found a McDonalds that appeared to be open. Trouble was, it was jammed. There were about a hundred cars jockeying for parking spaces but we managed to find one. But when we tried to go inside, the line was nearly out the door. So much for a fast food breakfast.

Benji and I got back into the car and went home. Since the stove was gas-powered, I made oatmeal with raisins… what I should have done in the first place. That evening I found a sushi restaurant that was open. The food was good but what was even better was the air-conditioning. When we got home, I took my fifth shower of the day. At least we still had water. Unlike people who had wells. We moved into the basement which was slightly cooler than the rest of the house. I haven’t slept on a couch in a while… at least since the last time my wife got mad at me. But it felt pretty good compared being upstairs. We used flashlights and an old crank up radio. This was a useful device. You would wind it up and it played. Then you had to wind it up again. At least we kept abreast of what was happening with the power outage. Also, our cell phones which we kept charged with our car chargers kept us in touch with the outside world. All the news was grim.

Sunday rolled around with no relief in sight. The temperature about 100 degrees again with Code Red air quality. More oatmeal for breakfast.

I had the nasty job of emptying the refrigerator and freezer. Everything was room temperature in the refrigerator and thawed out in the freezer. The week before, my kids and I had gone fishing on the Chesapeake Bay and we had caught some nice rockfish. I almost cried as I threw those fillets into the trash bag. Our dog, Mei-Mei stayed with us. I made sure she had lots of water. No long walks either. Our whole existence was centered in the basement. We cranked the radio and checked our cell phones. Five more cold showers. I realized I was a sissy. If I was tough I wouldn’t have showered at all.

We got take out from a Mexican restaurant that didn’t have air-conditioning. So we sat in the kitchen sweating like crazy eating our dinner. I said to Benji, “Benji… remember this, so when I get old you’ll remind me of this time.” By Sunday evening even the basement was getting warm but it was still better than the rest of the house. Mei-Mei stayed with us and I could tell she wasn’t all that eager to go outside.

Monday I went to work. Thank goodness, the office had air-conditioning. And when I got home I heard a clunk and suddenly the power was back on. So… I went to the supermarket and got some steaks for Benji and me to celebrate. Great dinner in a cool kitchen. So what if I’m a wuss. Now I have a good story to tell.

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