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Learn to Live Actively with Arthritis

September 10, 2013

Seminar Offers Tips on Managing Arthritis Pain

Many of us feel the onset of aging with the stiffening of our joints. Knees, hips, hands and other joints may show signs of arthritis as we age. There are several different forms of arthritis but the most prevalent types include Osteoarthritis (OA), Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and Gout. Osteoarthritis is by far the most common type of arthritis that mainly affects middle-aged to elderly population. Osteoarthritis can occur together with other types of arthritis.

We commonly refer to osteoarthritis as "wear and tear" of our joints but osteoarthritis is not limited to just wear and tear but is a disease of the entire joint, involving the cartilage, joint lining, ligaments and bone, according to Dr. Vani Velkuru, a Fremont Rheumatologist and member of the Washington Hospital medical staff.

About 27 million Americans are living with osteoarthritis, Dr. Velkuru notes. The lifetime risk of developing OA of the knee is about 46 percent and the hip is 25 percent, according to long-term studies sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.

The other common form of arthritis is Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease in which the body's own defense system does not work properly and starts attacking the lining of the joints. Gout is a painful and potentially disabling form of arthritis. Gout affects more than 3 million Americans. Gout occurs when excess uric acid (a normal waste product) collects in the body, and needle?like urate crystals deposit in the joints.

To learn more about the impact of arthritis, how to live with it and to explore the management options to relieve some of the symptoms, bring your lunch and join Dr. Velkuru at a free "Lunch and Learn" seminar from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, September 18. The program, "Living with Arthritis", will be held in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West) in Fremont.

Since arthritis is one of the leading causes of disability in our population, the purpose of the luncheon program is to educate participants about arthritis. The discussion will cover topics like identifying the red flags of arthritis, when to seek medical help, medications for arthritis, and how to prevent long-term disability from the disease.

"It is important for individuals to understand what they can do to manage the effects of arthritis, and to keep active since it is easy just to slow down and not move because of the discomfort and pain," Dr. Velkuru said. "The more severe forms of arthritis can affect a person's ability to perform simple activities like walking, dressing and other activities of daily living."

In managing arthritis it is essential to keep moving to keep the discomfort or pain under control. Walking and other forms of regular mild exercise often are beneficial. If one is overweight, losing weight can help. Osteoarthritis can't be cured, Dr. Velkuru noted, nor can joint damage be reversed. The goal of treatment is to reduce pain and improve the function of the affected joints. Most often, this is possible with a mixture of physical measures (exercise, for example) medications and sometimes, surgery.

Physical measures can include weight loss and exercise. Excess weight places stress on one's knee joints, hips and lower back. Exercise improves muscle strength, decreasing joint pain and stiffness and lowering the chance of disability from osteoarthritis.

Support or "assistive" devices, such as braces or a walking cane, also can be helpful in daily activities. Heat or cold therapy can relieve symptoms for a short time. Other alternative treatments, such as massage, acupuncture and chiropractic manipulation can relieve pain for a short period of time. However, they can be expensive and require repeated treatments. The long-term benefits of these alternative treatments are unproven but are under study.

Drug therapy depends on the type of arthritis. Treatment can vary from simple over the counter medications like topical creams and gels, oral pain relievers and prescription medications that can suppress the immune system from attacking the joints. Corticosteroids ("steroids") help reduce inflammation and may be injected into painful joints. Also available are injectable joint lubricants. Other widely used supplements are glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate, calcium with vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Surgical treatment becomes an option for severe cases and can include arthroscopy (repair of the joint through small incisions), and ultimately joint replacement.

Dr. Velkuru has been affiliated with Washington Hospital since 2011 and is a member of the hospital's medical staff as well as seeing patients in her own private practice. As a Rheumatologist, she works with patients to diagnose and treat arthritis and other diseases of the joints, muscles and bones.

Learn More

For more information about living with arthritis, join us on September 18, when Dr. Velkuru will discuss issues related to arthritis and also answer questions from attendees. Space for this program is limited and advance reservations are encouraged. To reserve your space or for more information, visit whhs.com/event/class-registration or call (800) 963-7070. For more information or to learn about other services offered at the Washington Women's Center, please visit whhs.com/womenscenter.

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