Arthritis Treatment Update

WebMD Live Events Transcript

In observance of National Arthritis Month, WebMD arthritis expert Michael Smith, MD joined us to answer your questions and concerns about treatment on May 24, 2005.

MODERATOR:
Welcome to WebMD Live, Dr. Smith. Thank you for joining us today.

SMITH:
Thank you for having me.

MEMBER QUESTION:
I have
rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and my 24-year-old son has been complaining of joint pain and aches. Could he possibly have the beginnings of RA?

SMITH:
It's possible because RA can run in families. However it somewhat depends on where his aches and pains are and the characteristics of the pain. The only way to really know is to have a doctor check out his symptoms to see if they are consistent with RA. There are other possibilities such as osteoarthritis as well.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Can you get arthritis in any joint in your body? I'm just curious.

SMITH:
Yes, it's possible to get arthritis in pretty much any joint. Some joints are more commonly affected such as the hands, knees, spine and hips. However it can even occur in the jaw, the toes, and other joints.

MEMBER QUESTION:
I have been to alternative doctors who claim that early arthritic symptoms can be reversed solely with diet. How much truth is there to this statement?

SMITH:
There is certainly no medical evidence to suggest that is true and I have never seen this happen in any of my patients. Diet can play some role -- how much isn't exactly known. There really is no evidence to say that it can have a really significant impact on arthritis pain.

"Cracking can be a sign of arthritis but usually only if there is also pain. By itself it's nothing to be concerned about."

MODERATOR:
Is joint pain and/or arthritis just inevitable as we age?

SMITH:
It's not inevitable but it's certainly much more common as we age. Some people never get arthritis symptoms although that's probably more rare than common. Most of us will get some form of aches and pains related to arthritis, but this may not happen until we reach our 70s or 80s. Some of us will be affected much earlier but it's unusual until after the age of 40, for osteoarthritis at least.

MODERATOR:
Can arthritis be prevented? What can we do to keep our joints pain free?

SMITH:
It depends on the type of arthritis that we're talking about. For rheumatoid arthritis and other related types we don't know how to prevent them. But for osteoarthritis (OA), the wear-and-tear type, there are things we can do to help prevent it in certain joints. OA in the hips and knees is much more common when we're overweight. This is due to the excess strain we put on those joints. Staying healthy overall does seem to play a role in holding off OA as well. But some forms, such as in the hands, we don't really know what can help prevent it exactly.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Can you update me on the latest recommendations and warnings about prescription pain meds? First some are dangerous, then they're not, then others we thought were OK were pulled off the market. How has this shaken out?

SMITH:
The latest news on this came in a couple of months ago. At this point Vioxx and Bextra are off the market and I doubt that we'll see them come back. A related drug, Celebrex, is on the market. But this drug carries the same label warning as all other prescription anti-inflammatory drugs. This warning says that each of these drugs carries some risk of heart attacks and strokes. We don't really know the exact risk but all of them are thought to be related to some degree.




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