Thursday, October 15, 2009

Learning About Arthritis

When our Aging in Place in Darien information committee decided to have a doctor talk about arthritis at our first annual luncheon, I thought it would be a depressing topic. I was wrong!

Yesterday, we held the luncheon at the First Congregational Church of Darien and heard Dr. Stuart Novack, Chief of Rheumatology at Norwalk Hospital, speak about rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, as well as gout and osteoporosis. Even though he used medical terms, he was a terrific speaker, holding the 100-member audience rapt.

I was amazed to learn about all the new discoveries medical science is making in these diseases. The human genome project has exploded our knowledge of how our bodies work, how genetic dispositions get set off by some environmental factor, and how to find new cures for old diseases. New medicines are coming on the market and old ones from Europe are finally being approved in the U.S. (like an anti-inflammatory gel you rub on your knees!).

The problem with some of the newer medications is that they are amazingly expensive -- $3,000 for a dose delivered by I.V. or $2,000 for one subcutaneous injection. But they work by getting at the cause, not by just treating the symptoms. We are discovering that arthritis can be treated.

As a jogger, I was particularly happy to learn that long distance running is not harmful and will not make arthritis worse. Exercise is good. It keeps bones and all the muscles supporting the bones strong. (Dr. Novack cited some amazing statistics, but I didn't take notes.) He emphasized also that we need to get enough vitamin D to keep bones strong.

I also learned that the NSAIDs (Advil & Motrin (ibuprofen) and Aleve-type medicines), while having anti-inflammatory properties, are not good to take in excess once you're over 60. There are too many negative side effects.

I could go on and on about what I learned. But the point is that we had a wonderful, informative lunch, with great food supplied by a church member, and a huge crowd. If you have questions about arthritis, go see your doctor. If your primary care doctor can't help you, get thee to a specialist like Dr. Novack. A well informed doctor is what you need.

For more information about Aging in Place in Darien, please visit: http://www.communityfunddarien.org/Aging-In-Place.html

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