Overcoming Osteoarthritis

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Overcoming Osteoarthritis

Arthritis refers to inflammation of the joint. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which is also known as degenerative joint disease, because it is characterized by joint degeneration and loss of cartilage -- the shock-absorbing, gel-like material between joints.

The percentage of people with osteoarthritis increases dramatically with age. Surveys have indicated that over 40 million Americans have osteoarthritis, including 80 percent of persons over the age of 50. Under the age of 45, osteoarthritis is much more common in men. After age 45, it is much more common in women.

The weight-bearing joints such as the knees, hips, and spine as well as the hands are the joints most often affected with the degenerative changes of osteoarthritis. These joints are under greater stress because of weight and use.

Onset of symptoms

The onset of osteoarthritis can be subtle. Morning joint stiffness is often the first symptom. As the disease progresses, there is pain on motion of the involved joint that is made worse by prolonged activity and relieved by rest.

Osteoarthritis is usually quite easily distinguished from other types of arthritis. Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and other forms of arthritis, there is very little inflammation going on. In more inflammatory forms of arthritis the joints will appear red, spongy and warm. In osteoarthritis, in contrast, the joint will generally be cooler and bony-hard.

If you have arthritis (joint pain), consult a physician for an accurate diagnosis. Symptoms of arthritis include mild early-morning stiffness, stiffness following periods of rest, pain that worsens on joint use, and loss of joint function. Signs are local tenderness, soft tissue swelling, joint crepitus, bony swelling, restricted mobility, Heberden's nodes, and other signs of degenerative loss of articular cartilage. X-ray findings may show narrowing of the joint space (the area between the bones taken up by cartilage).

Causes of osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is divided into two categories, primary and secondary. In primary osteoarthritis, the degenerative "wear-and-tear" process occurs after a person turns 40 years of age. The cumulative effects of decades of use leads to the degenerative changes by stressing the collagen matrix of the cartilage. Damage to the cartilage results in the release of enzymes that destroy cartilage components. With aging, the ability to restore and manufacture normal cartilage structures decreases. So, what I am saying is that aging is the primary cause of osteoarthritis. But just because you may be getting older doesn't mean that you have to suffer from the pain of osteoarthritis.

Secondary osteoarthritis is associated with some predisposing factor which is responsible for the degenerative changes. Predisposing factors in secondary osteoarthritis include: inherited abnormalities in joint structure or function; trauma (fractures along joint surfaces, surgery, etc.); presence of abnormal cartilage; and previous inflammatory disease of joint (rheumatoid arthritis, gout, etc.).

Conventional medical treatment

The primary drugs used in the treatment of osteoarthritis are the so-called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which include aspirin. Although these drugs are extensively used in the United States, research is indicating that in the treatment of osteoarthritis these drugs may be producing short-term benefit but actually accelerating the progression of the joint destruction and causing more problems down the road. These drugs are also associated with side effects including gastrointestinal upset, headaches, and dizziness, and are therefore recommended for only short periods of time.

NSAIDs and joint destruction

The way in which these drugs work is to inhibit enzymes involved in the production of inflammatory compounds. Enzymes are molecules involved in speeding up chemical reactions. Enzymes either join molecules together or split them apart by making or breaking the chemical bonds that join molecules together. With NSAIDs, they not only suppress the enzymes that produce inflammatory compounds, they also inhibit enzymes that manufacture cartilage components.

The use of NSAIDs in the treatment of osteoarthritis is a classic example of a drug suppressing the symptom while promoting the progression of the disease process. A person may feel free from pain while on the NSAID, but his/her arthritis is silently getting worse, as noted in several clinical studies that have shown that NSAID use is associated with acceleration of osteoarthritis and increased joint destruction.

Natural healing

What can be used instead of NSAIDs in the treatment of osteoarthritis? Glucosamine sufate! Glucosamine is a simple molecule that can be manufactured in the body. The main function of glucosamine on joints is to stimulate the manufacture of molecules known as glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) -- key structural components of cartilage. It appears that as some people age, they lose the ability to manufacture sufficient levels of glucosamine. The result is that cartilage loses its ability to act as a shock absorber. The inability to manufacture glucosamine has been suggested to be the major factor leading to osteoarthritis.

Glucosamine sulfate has been the subject of over 300 scientific investigations and over 20 double-blind studies. Glucosamine sulfate has been used by millions of people worldwide and is registered as an aid in osteoarthritis in over 70 countries.

The benefits of glucosamine sulfate in the treatment of osteoarthritis are impressive. In one of the more recent studies comparing glucosamine sulfate to a placebo, 252 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee were given either a placebo or 500 mg. glucosamine sulfate three times daily for four weeks. Glucosamine sulfate was significantly effective in improving pain and movement after only four weeks of use. Previous studies have shown that the longer glucosamine sulfate is used, the more obvious the therapeutic benefit. The rate and severity of side effects with glucosamine did not differ from the placebo. These results are consistent with other double-blind studies versus a placebo.

In head-to-head double-blind studies, glucosamine sulfate was shown to also produce better results than NSAIDs in relieving the pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis despite the fact that glucosamine sulfate exhibits very little direct anti-inflammatory effect and no direct analgesic or pain relieving effects. By treating the root of the problem through the promotion of cartilage synthesis, glucosamine sulfate not only improves the symptoms including pain, it also helps the body repair damaged joints.

The right glucosamine

All of the research has been done with glucosamine sulfate. It is the only form of glucosamine with proven effectiveness. Only glucosamine sulfate is approved as a treatment for osteoarthritis in over 70 countries of the world and has been used by millions of people safely and effectively. Glucosamine sulfate is the preferred form of glucosamine. From a scientific perspective this statement is irrefutable.

Consumers should be aware that many companies marketing N-acetyl-glucosamine (NAG) try to mislead people into believing that this form is better absorbed, more stable, and is better utilized than glucosamine sulfate. These contentions are without support in the scientific literature. Glucosamine sulfate is clearly the preferred form.

Essential sulfate

Sulfur is an essential nutrient for joint tissue where it functions in the stabilization of the connective tissue matrix of cartilage, tendons, and ligaments. The sulfur levels in the blood and joint fluid is very low in people with osteoarthritis. As far back as the 1930s, researchers demonstrated that individuals with arthritis are commonly deficient in this essential nutrient. Restoring sulfur levels brought about significant benefit to these patients.

In addition to sulfur playing a critical role in the manufacture of GAGs like chondroitin sulfate, researchers discovered that sulfur inhibits the various enzymes which lead to cartilage destruction in osteoarthritis (e.g., collagenase, elastases, and hyaluronidase). Because one of the primary effects of glucosamine sulfate is to promote the manufacture of chondroitin sulfate and other "poly-sulfated" compounds in cartilage, a lack of the sulfur molecule may mean less cartilage synthesis when other forms of glucosamine are used.

Safety record

Glucosamine sulfate has an excellent safety record in animal and human studies. Based on these studies many experts have recommended that glucosamine sulfate be considered as a drug of choice for prolonged oral treatment of rheumatic disorders. Side effects, when they do appear, are generally limited to light to moderate gastrointestinal symptoms including stomach upset, heartburn, diarrhea, nausea, and indigestion. If these symptoms occur, try taking the glucosamine sulfate during a meal. Glucosamine sulfate is extremely well-tolerated and no allergic reactions have been reported. For diabetics, 98 percent of glucosamine is absorbed intact and has absolutely no effect on blood sugar levels.

There have been no reports of any adverse drug interactions with glucosamine sulfate. The only caveat is that individuals taking diuretics and people who weigh more than 200 pounds may need to take higher dosages (e.g., 20 mg. per kilogram [2.2 pounds] body weight daily). The standard dosage for glucosamine sulfate is 500 mg. three times per day.

With glucosamine sulfate supplementation, most people will experience significant improvement within four weeks. However, the longer it is used, the more obvious the results. The effects are cumulative and long-lasting.

Relief for Rheumatoid Arthritis

The crippling diseases known as rheumatoid arthritis, which claims three times as many women as men, has baffled doctors for years. The autoimmune disorder, which differs from osteoarthritis, has an unknown cause.

At a recent conference in Barcelona, Spain, researchers pointed out studies that show essential fatty acids were aiding many rheumatoid patients. In addition to reducing swelling and stiffness, the EFA's, especially those found in fish oils (omega-3), reduced patients' reliance on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS).

Recent studies also showed that therapeutic doses of vitamin E and other antioxidants to reduce free radicals also assist in pain relief. Two hundred times the amount of free radicals are found in rheumatic tissue.

A researcher from The Netherlands, Dr. H. Oswald, reported that he had found a combination of EFA's, antioxidants, glucosamine sulfate, n-acetyl glucosamine manganese aspartate in a patented, U.S.-made formula that he has been using with success on patients. He reported that symptoms with this natural formula, known as Inholtra(TM), reduced symptoms in as little as 10 days with no side effects. He announced plans to use the formula in clinics in Italy and Germany.

Measurements & Data Corporation.

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By Michael T. Murray

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