A wide range of topics was covered at the inaugural Senior Education Symposium, hosted by the Payson Roundup.

Speakers discussed real estate, finances, health care, hospice care and Medicare.

Dr. Jason Tani, the new orthopedic surgeon for Banner Payson Medical Center, talked about arthritis and osteoporosis.

Tani said joints are very similar to ligaments, tendons and cartilage. Consequently, all joints are at risk of becoming arthritic.

“There are all kinds of arthritis and it affects most of us,” Tani told the group gathered at the Mazatzal Hotel & Casino’s event room.

In fact, according to the Arthritis Foundation, “arthritis” is not a single disease; it is an informal way of referring to joint pain or joint disease. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions. People of all ages, sexes and races can and do have arthritis, and it is the leading cause of disability in America. More than 50 million adults and 300,000 children have some type of arthritis. It is most common among women and occurs more frequently as people get older.

Common arthritis joint symptoms include swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion.

Symptoms may come and go. They can be mild, moderate or severe. They may stay about the same for years, but may progress or get worse over time.

Severe arthritis can result in chronic pain, inability to do daily activities and make it difficult to walk or climb stairs. Arthritis can cause permanent joint changes. These changes may be visible, such as knobby finger joints, but often the damage can only be seen on X-ray. Some types of arthritis also affect the heart, eyes, lungs, kidneys and skin as well as the joints.

Diagnosing arthritis

Tani said before seeing an orthopedic surgeon about your arthritis, make sure you actually have arthritis — see your primary care provider first. He said while arthritis is common, its cause is still unknown.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, because scientists don’t fully understand the causes or mechanisms behind these diseases, true prevention seems to be impossible.

Consider this: Many types of arthritis are thought to result from a combination of genetic predisposition and an environmental trigger, such as a virus or toxin. Discovery of the trigger for a type of arthritis may be the key to its prevention, even in someone with genetic risk.

The Arthritis Foundation website outlines the steps that most likely will be taken to diagnose whether or not a patient has the disease.

First there is a physical exam — a joint evaluation is hands-on work. Doctors look to see which joints have visible signs of joint swelling, stiffness or redness.

The doctor will feel the joint for warmth, swelling and fluid. The doctor will move the joints back and forth to see range of motion, and will gently prod to see if there are tender areas near or far from the joint. Then there are the usual exam steps — a temperature reading, a check for swollen glands, a look into the eyes and down the throat, as well as a reflex check, too.

The next step could be imaging tests — depending on the findings so far, your doctor may order lab and/or imaging tests. With lab tests, blood may be drawn to check for levels of inflammation, presence of antibodies, and status of general systems (complete blood count, liver and kidney function, etc.).

In some cases, a genetic test may be ordered. With imaging tests, X-rays are the most frequently used means of visualizing the joint, but sometimes ultrasound and MRI are used.

‘Preventing’ arthritis

While true prevention seems to be impossible, there are still ways to minimize the risk of developing the more debilitating forms of arthritis.

Tani said the best defense against arthritis is to improve bone health now. The best way to make the improvement is to exercise, he said. It contributes to bone strength and staying limber.

The top types of exercise Tani recommends: walking; swimming; bike riding; water aerobics; and working with a physical therapist. He said if someone is dealing with arthritis already or has a family history of the disease, it is best to avoid exercise that puts extra stress on the joints.

Tani said weight-bearing exercises are especially beneficial of joint health.

Extra stress on the joints can also be relieved through weight control, he said. “We put three to four pounds of pressure on our joints for every one pound of body weight.”

Being overweight accelerates cartilage destruction and it makes it harder to exercise before and after joint repair/replacement surgery.

Tani said everyone should take vitamins C and D, plus calcium to minimize the risk of arthritis. He said vitamin D is especially important, even if you spend a lot of time in the sun — a natural source of D.

Treatments

The safest treatments should be the first used as you develop arthritis — ice and/or heat for the pain; braces and self-help devices to minimize the risk of falls. Among the over-the-counter pain medications he suggested: acetaminophen; aspirin; NSAIDs; naproxen; ibuprofen; Meloxicam; and the topical anti-inflammatory Aspercreme.

Tani said caution should be taken with anti-inflammatory oral medications because they can cause gastric bleeding. Injections are something to investigate only if the other treatments are no longer effective on your level of pain. Surgery to repair or replace joints is the last step.

“There is no surgical or medical cure for arthritis, however, hip replacement surgery is second only to heart valve surgery when it comes to improving a patient’s quality of life,” Tani said.

Osteoporosis

There are two million fractures each year in U.S. due to osteoporosis, Tani said. He said 300,000 people break a hip each year. Of those, 25 percent will go into an assisted living situation, either in a nursing home or have to have someone come in and care for them in their home; 50 percent will never regain full independent movement; and 25 percent will die within a year.

“Hip fractures kill more women than breast, ovarian and cervical cancer combined,” Tani said.

Experts have determined oral medication or injections to treat osteoporosis should only be given for a five-year period.

Contact the reporter at tmcquerrey@payson.com

Contact the reporter 

tmcquerrey@payson.com

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