Living with arthritis

HANCOCK – Sue Slinde was born with congenitally dislocated hips, and over the years she had many treatments for the condition, but later in life other health problems developed, including arthritis.

The situation with her hips had a cascading effect over her body, Slinde said.

“I started having back problems in my 30s,” she said.

When she was 35, Slinde said she started getting physical therapy for her back, but not much else as far as treatment.

“They told me to take aspirin,” she said.

Now, the 63-year-old Slinde said she is taking prescription strength non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to ease pain.

“I’ll probably be on those the rest of my life,” she said. “For the most part, (the drugs) are very helpful.”

In her early 40s, Slinde said she had her right hip totally replaced with an artificial hip. Her left hip followed when she was 45.

Slinde developed arthritis in her knees, and in September, her right knee was totally replaced. She expects her left knee will be replaced in about five years.

Her arthritis may be due, at least in part, to genetics, Slinde said. Both her parents had the disease, her father in his hands and her mother in her back.

“I have a strong history of osteoarthritis,” she said.

Slinde said she has children in their 30s, but so far they aren’t showing the symptoms of arthritis.

“It’ll be years,” she said.

Slinde is a patient of Dr. Sigurds Janners, who said arthritis can happen in any joint in the body, but knees are the most susceptible.

“It’s the one that is more damaged than any other joint,” he said. “Obesity is a major component. The load on the knee joint is tremendous.”

Arthritis can develop in the spine, also, Janners said.

Janners said arthritis is a disease, which can be caused by trauma, infection, degeneration of the joint, and genetics. Pain can vary from just an annoyance to causing a sufferer to be bedridden.

According to the website of the American Arthritis Foundation, the types of arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid and juvenile. Other associated diseases are fibromyalgia, psoriatic arthritis, gout, and Sjgren’s Syndrome.

Osteoarthritis is the most common type affecting about 27 million Americans, according to the AAF website. With the disease, cartilage around the ends of bones breaks down and eventually there is a rubbing of bone against bone.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease of the immune system, according to the AAF website. Although the reason is unknown, the body attacks healthy cells such as those in the lining surrounding joints. Fluid builds up causing inflammation and pain. Over time, cartilage and bone will wear down, hindering mobility.

There are several types of juvenile arthritis and related illnesses. They are similar to adult arthritis.

As people age, Janners said many will develop arthritis.

“Degenerative (osteo)arthritis is part of older age,” he said.

Janners said 35 million to 40 million Americans 65 or older have some sort of arthritis.

Treatment for arthritis varies, from mild to extreme, Janners said.

“If you don’t hurt, you don’t do much,” he said.

There are over-the-counter medications, which Janners said will moderate some levels of pain caused by arthritis.

“Almost any arthritis can be treated that way,” he said. “Good old aspirin is an excellent, excellent medicine.”

However, Janners said long-term use of some of those medications can cause side effects in the gastrointestinal tract, and may affect some organs.

“(Levels) of what we thought were safe may not be safe,” he said.

Prescription medications are used for extreme cases of arthritis, Janners said.

In extreme cases, such as what Slide experienced, Janners said surgery to replace joints may be needed.

Another procedure involves injecting a gel substance into a joint to repair surfaces pitted by the disease.

“It looks like potholes in the road,” he said. “(Injecting gel) doesn’t cure it, but it buys you time,” he said.

An arthroscopic procedure uses a scope in the joint so loose pieces of cartilage can be removed, which will ease pain, Janners said.

Slide said having a good attitude is very important for coping with arthritis. By keeping active with walking and even knitting, the pain of her arthritis is significantly reduced.

“I can knit for hours,” she said. “Knitting seems to help a lot.”