Entries in Arthritis (9)


FDA Warning: Reumofan Supplements Contain Risky Drugs

Agencia el Universal/El Universal de Mexico/Newscom(NEW YORK) -- Consumers searching for a miracle cure for the aches and pains of arthritis should beware: The FDA has issued a new warning about the potential health risks of Reumofan and Reumofan Plus, two products marketed as natural dietary supplements for treating arthritis, muscle pain, osteoporosis, bone cancer and other conditions.

The FDA said it found both supplements contain several potentially dangerous ingredients that are not listed on the label. Since the first warning was issued in June, consumers have begun to speak up.

"The FDA has received dozens of additional adverse event reports, including death and stroke, associated with the use of Reumofan Plus," said Sarah Clark-Lynn, an FDA spokesperson. "Other reports include liver injury, severe bleeding, sudden worsening of glucose (sugar) control, weight gain, swelling, leg cramps and withdrawal syndrome, and adrenal suppression."

FDA lab analysis of the products revealed the presence of several prescription drugs that are linked to serious side effects, the agency said.

Dexamethasone, a corticosteroid commonly used to treat inflammatory conditions, can weaken the immune system, elevate blood sugar levels and increase the risk of bone and muscle injuries. It's also been associated with psychiatric problems.

When taken over long periods of time or in high doses, the drug may damage the adrenal glands, impairing their ability to produce hormones. Sudden discontinued use, especially when the drug has been taken long-term or in high doses, may lead to withdrawal syndrome, with users experiencing fatigue, nausea, low blood pressure, low blood sugar levels, fever, dizziness, and muscle and joint pain.

Diclofenac sodium, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) also detected in the supplements, increases the risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke, as well as serious gastrointestinal problems including bleeding, ulceration, and fatal perforation of the stomach and intestines. Additionally, the analysis found the muscle relaxant methocarbamol, which can cause drowsiness, dizziness, low blood pressure, and impair mental or physical abilities to perform tasks, such as driving a motor vehicle or operating machinery.

Tests on samples of Reumofan Plus found it contained diclofenac sodium and methocarbamol, the FDA said.

"The hidden drug ingredients in Reumofan Plus and Reumofan Plus Premium can lead to serious, even life-threatening, health consequences. The longer you take the products, the higher the risk," Clark-Lynn said. "Because of the hidden corticosteroid, consumers taking these products are urged to immediately consult with their doctor to safely discontinue use of the product."

Dr. Stephen Dahmer, an integrated medicine family physician in private practice at the Continuum Center for Health and Healing, Beth Israel Medical Center, said supplements can be as dangerous as medications. "Anyone can have an adverse or allergic reaction to almost any supplement so you do need to be careful about what you take and make sure you only buy reputable, high-quality brands," he said.

None of his patients has taken Reumofan but he urged anyone with osteoarthritis to steer clear. And he said he's on the lookout for symptoms in patients who suffer from arthritis in case they've taken the pills without telling him.

The supplements are manufactured in Mexico by the company Riger Naturals. They are usually labeled in Spanish but may also be labeled in English. In the U.S., GNC, Vitamin Shoppe and other large national retailers don't appear to be carrying the products either on the shelves or on their websites, but they can easily be purchased on supplement websites or eBay.

The Mexican Ministry of Health issued its own health warning to the public about Reumofan and has ordered Riger Naturals to recall the products. The FDA is asking doctors and consumers to report any side effects related to the two supplements to the FDA's MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Reflecting on Arthritis Pain: New Therapy Offers Promise

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- Many of the 50 million Americans with arthritis suffer from debilitating joint pain, often for years.  Now, a therapy originally developed to ease the pain caused by lost limbs offers them some hope of relief.

The technique, known as mirror box therapy, is used to treat phantom limb pain experienced by amputees -- a phenomenon in which the missing limb feels as if it is locked in an agonizingly uncomfortable position.  Relying on the idea that there is a strong visual component to pain, phantom limb patients are asked to look at the reflection of a healthy limb in a mirror that has been placed where the missing limb should be.

Seeing the healthy limb go through normal movements seems to correct the confused signals between the brain and nerves, thereby reducing pain.  In some subjects, it has proven surprisingly effective for clearing up phantom limb pain entirely.

In an as-yet unpublished study, researchers at the University of California at San Diego applied the mirror technique to patients with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.  The scientists overlaid the image of a healthy hand over the sufferer's painfully disabled hand and asked them to follow a series of slow, deliberate movements.

"Many of the patients reported a reduction in pain and stiffness during this illusion," said lead researcher Laura Case.  Case, who works in the lab of Vilayanur S. Ramachandran, one of the originators of the therapy, said the team must complete additional work on mirror training for arthritis before they can say it will have long-term benefits.

Their research builds on work performed last year by psychologists at the University of Nottingham.  Using a similar technique known as "illusory manipulation" in which a computer, a video screen and illustrations distort the size of a limb much as a fun-house mirror would, they tested on a group of 20 seniors with painful arthritis to see whether it would have any effect. 

After one session, 85 percent of participants said their pain was cut in half and six reported their pain had completely vanished -- though there was no follow up to see how long the pain reduction lasted.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Warning Signs of Arthritis in Pets

Janie Airey/Lifesize/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Millions of Americans are living with the pain of osteoarthritis, and so are millions of pets.

According to veterinarians, it's one of the most under-diagnosed conditions in their field, and unlike their human counterparts, animals must suffer in silence.

Since pets can't express that they're in pain, vets say there are certain warning signs owners should watch out for, ranging from physical signals to behavioral changes.  And while the joint damage caused by osteoarthritis can't be reversed, the pain can be treated.  But early diagnosis is critical.

"Arthritis is easier to diagnose in dogs," said Duncan Lascelles, professor of surgery and pain management at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine.  "We ask them to perform certain activities, like going for walks or jumping in the car to go for a ride.  We go and do activities together, so if we're observant, we can see alterations in the animals' ability to perform them."

Dogs may not want to walk as far, or may appear to tire easily, he said.  They may also hesitate before jumping or walking.

"Dogs may also be slow to rise on their back legs, or may limp, or they may bunny-hop instead of using their normal stride," said Marty Becker, a veterinarian in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and a columnist for

Cats don't move around as much and are lower to the ground, but there are certain cues that they may be in pain.

"They may be less likely to jump on window ledges or onto furniture, or people may start moving furniture to help the cat and not realize the cat is actually in pain," said Lascelles.

Cats may also not use the litter box if it's too high and may stop grooming themselves, Becker said.

Arthritis isn't common only in dogs and cats.  Rabbits and horses often suffer from the condition, and Lascelles explained that food-producing animals are known to suffer from it as well, but don't survive long enough to experience the disease's negative effects.

Pets in pain may also act differently than they normally do.

"People become irritable and short-tempered when they're in pain, and the same thing happens to pets," said Lascelles.

The pain may cause pets to snap, growl or exhibit other aggressive behavior, even toward their owners.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Top Five Myths About Arthritis Busted

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- About 50 million Americans are living with some type of arthritis, but despite how common a condition it is, many people -- even some who are diagnosed with it -- hold beliefs about arthritis that experts say aren't true.

Misconceptions about who's most likely to develop arthritis and what foods sufferers should avoid are both common, along with several others.

Here are some of the long-held myths:

Only Old People Get Arthritis

"That is a really common one, and arthritis obviously doesn't happen only to older people," said Dr. Vivian Bykerk, assistant attending rheumatologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.  "It can happen to 1- and 2-year-olds, it can happen to 90-year-olds and to anyone in between."

Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that two-thirds of people with arthritis are younger than 65, and a recent study found that it affects nearly 1 in 250 children.

Certain Vegetables Can Make Arthritis Worse

Another common myth is that nightshade vegetables, which include potatoes, eggplant, peppers and tomatoes, can exacerbate arthritis symptoms.  The belief is that a chemical in these vegetables can cause too much calcium to build up in the body, damaging the joints.

But doctors say there's not a lot of scientific evidence to back up that claim.

"It's hard to study this relationship, but even though we don't know for sure, it doesn't look like clear evidence that these foods can make symptoms worse," said Dr. Joanne Jordan, director of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine's Thurston Arthritis Research Center in Chapel Hill.

There's Not Much People Can Do to Treat Arthritis

While there is no cure for arthritis, there are many available options to alleviate symptoms so people can lead normal lives.  The type of therapy that will bring on the most relief depends on the type of arthritis a person has, because health care providers may approach each condition differently.

Bykerk said there are more than 130 different types of arthritis, so the first step toward improving quality of life is to see a specialist and identify what type of arthritis a person has to determine the best treatment options.

Cracking Knuckles Can Cause Arthritis

Many people crack their knuckles because it helps their joints feel less stiff, but they may have heard it's a habit that could someday cause arthritis.

There actually have been studies that attempted to evaluate whether cracking knuckles increases the risk of developing arthritis.

"The studies didn't show any link, so we can't say there's any association between the two," said Jordan.

Exercise Is Bad for Arthritis Sufferers

It's definitely false that exercise can be harmful for people arthritis, say the experts.

"People become immobilized and tend to be inactive because of the worry they're going to hurt their joints," said Jordan.

"It's better to be active," Bykerk said.  "Studies have clearly shown that people that do their best to go on with their daily lives do better than those who lie in bed."

Avoiding activity can actually be harmful, she added, because it can lead to muscle loss.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis May Raise Kids' Cancer Risk

Fuse/Thinkstock(BIRMINGHAM, Ala.) -- Children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), the most common form of childhood arthritis, may be at higher risk of developing cancer than children who do not have the condition, according to a new study published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Researchers identified 7,812 children with JIA and compared them with thousands of children not affected by JIA and found that the arthritic children developed about four times as many new growths considered likely to be cancerous as children who did not have arthritis.  They followed the children for about 18 months.

"Based on the data, it appears that being diagnosed with JIA increases the likelihood of developing malignancies," said Dr. Timothy Beukelman, the study's lead author and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

But despite the statistically higher risk, Dr. Sampath Prahalad, associate professor of pediatrics and human genetics at the Emory University School of Medicine, said cancer in children with JIA is rare.

"The risk is very low, and it's more common for children with JIA to not get cancer," he said.  The study included only 7,812 children with JIA, and nationwide, there are about 300,000.  Prahalad was not involved with the research.

Beukelman said there are a number of possible explanations for the finding, but so far, no one knows why JIA may predispose children to cancer.  He stressed, however, that there was no association between cancer risk and any treatments for the condition, including the use of drugs known as tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors.

TNF inhibitors, including the brand-name drugs Enbrel and Humira, are considered by doctors to be revolutionizing treatments that can sometimes stop rheumatoid arthritis in its tracks.

But there have been a number of case reports linking the use of TNF inhibitors to an increased cancer risk in children, prompting the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to add a black box warning to these drugs in 2009.  A black box warning is the strongest warning used by the FDA and indicates a drug has potentially life-threatening effects.

"The initial concern about TNF inhibitors may have been overstated, since some of the risk likely comes from the disease itself," Beukelman said.

Beukelman explained that when the FDA made its decision to include black box warnings on TNF inhibitors, the only data available compared children with JIA who took these drugs with healthy children.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Alternative Therapies Offer Arthritis Pain Relief

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- An estimated 50 million Americans are living with arthritis, and while the pain, stiffness and joint deformities that often go along with it can be debilitating, medical experts say there are treatments that can bring relief to help sufferers live full and productive lives.

There are more than 100 different forms of arthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation.  The most common types are osteoarthritis, caused by "wear and tear" on joints, and rheumatoid arthritis, caused when the body attacks its own tissues, leading to inflammation of the joints.

Along with commonly prescribed painkillers, surgeries and other medical interventions, there are also a number of complementary approaches specialists use that they say can decrease inflammation, reduce pain and promote overall health.

ABC News asked doctors who practice integrative medicine, a field focused on blending conventional medicine with complementary treatments, to weigh in on what options they recommend for arthritis.

Dietary Ingredients

"Certain anti-inflammatory ingredients can be incorporated into the diet, such as tumeric and ginger," said Dr. Ashwin Mehta, medical director of integrative medicine at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine.  "Ginger and tumeric are powerful anti-inflammatory ingredients we can recommend pretty much to anybody.  They are very safe and have no potential medication interactions or complications."

There have been few clinical trials looking at the effectiveness of ginger and tumeric on inflammation, but there are some laboratory data that suggest both can be helpful.

Other food additives are considered to have anti-inflammatory properties, such as garlic, cinnamon and soy.

Cutting back on refined sugars can also reduce inflammation, Mehta added.  That dietary tip will help with all types of arthritis.


Although some people may believe having arthritis means doing exercise will cause further damage to the joints and others may find it too painful to be active, doctors stress that staying active is key to managing the symptoms of arthritis.

"Physical activity and exercise are very important, especially something like yoga that would target the joints," said Mehta. "Yoga is a type of exercise that focuses on the nuts and bolts that hold everything else together, like the tendons and ligaments, and it's designed for preventive joint health."

Exercise can also help people lose weight, which is very effective at reducing joint inflammation, said Dr. Lawrence Taw, clinical professor at UCLA's Center for East-West Medicine.


"For every person with arthritis, we recommend one nutritional or dietary change, one physical activity goal or exercise treatment and a mindfulness program of some kind," Mehta said.

Mehta explained that a benefit of mindfulness programs is that they teach people how to relax, which can be especially helpful for people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Acupuncture and Temperature Remedies

"Acupuncture has been found to be effective for osteoarthritis of the knee and hip as well as for rheumatoid arthritis, and a small study found it helps arthritis in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus," Taw said.

On its website, the American College of Rheumatology explains that studies have found acupuncture to be effective at relieving pain related to osteoarthritis, and it may be that the needle contact with the skin is what causes the decreased pain.  But they go on to say that acupuncture is safe in combination with conventional treatments.

And since symptoms of different types of arthritis may be triggered by the temperature or the weather, experts may recommend heat or cold therapy.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Cutting Edge: Joint Injections Heal Baby Boomer Arthritis

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- When doctors told Aviva Gianetti of River Vale, N.J., that she would need surgery in both arms to heal her tennis elbow, she wanted to find a way out of it.

Gianetti, in her late 50s, goes to the gym several times a week and won't pass up the chance to play golf. But the soreness and pain running down both of her arms has left her unable to partake in her favorite game.

Still, Gianetti was adamant against having surgery, so her specialist took an experimental approach: He gave her a shot of her own platelet rich plasma in both elbows. For Gianetti, two rounds of injections were all it took to get her back on the golf course at full swing.

The procedure, formally called platelet rich plasma, or PRP, injections, uses natural nutrients from the patient's own blood to heal the joints. Blood cells are separated from the liquid part of the blood, and then the clotted blood cells -- or plasma -- are inserted into the damaged joint. Previous animal and human studies suggest that plasma can help repair damaged cartilage and joints.

Athletes like basketball star Kobe Bryant and Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte have undergone PRP injections. But this method to alleviate joint pain has grown in demand among baby boomers.

The baby boomer generation has become the most active of any other in that age group, which has led the boomers to become the fastest-growing group to undergo joint replacements. Knee replacement surgeries have doubled over the past decade, and more than tripled in women between the ages of 45 and 64.

But PRP injections have offered many boomers a chance to extend their active years without pain.

But many experts say PRP injections are no proven substitute for surgery. There is only limited scientific data to suggest that it really works to treat as many joint problems as it is currently used for. Some claims suggest plasma injections can stop arthritis progression, and even create new cartilage.

"This is certainly, potentially one treatment option that may be utilized, but it's not the magic bullet," said Dr. Laith Jazrawi, chief of sports medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center. "To offer these things to patients and potentially tell them that we may have the treatment that may prevent you from getting a knee replacement is really silly."

PRP injections are more often given to treat chronic arthritis. Jazrawi, who offers PRP injections in his office, says PRP should not be the first-line treatment recommended for baby boomer patients. Instead, he advises them to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle and diet.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Number of Americans Suffering with Gout Is on the Rise

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Gout, a type of inflammatory arthritis that is caused by the formation of uric acid crystals in the joints, causing pain and swelling, appears to be on the rise, according to a new study published Thursday in Arthritis & Rheumatism.

By comparing data from two national surveys -- one from 1988-1994 and the other from 2007-2008, researchers at Boston University School of Medicine found that about 4 percent of the U.S. population, or some 8.3 million adults, now suffer from gout, with the condition being more common in men than in women.

This latest rate is a 1.2 percent increase from 20 years ago.

The authors of the study also found that this rise in gout rates is linked to the rise in obesity and hypertension among U.S. adults, and so they conclude that “improvements in managing modifiable risk factors, such as obesity and hypertension, could help prevent further escalation of gout...among Americans.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Joe Montana Suffers Joint Pain After All-Star NFL Career

BananaStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- At the peak of his career, Joe Montana was one of football's biggest names, with four Super Bowl rings to his name. But now in his retirement, "Joe Cool" is the face of a nutritional supplement that he says helps his aching joints -- the price he has paid for 20 years of tackles.

"The joint pain started at some point a little bit into my career," said Montana. "When you have 300-pound fellows falling on you for that many years, you start to feel it."

Chronic joint pain plagues many of the NFL's finest, and many players say it just comes with the territory.

"For me, it was a stiffness that wouldn't go away," said Montana. "One knee was worse than the other, and then there was the swelling that goes along with it. The more you can keep your joints lubricated, the less you'll feel that."

Pain and stiffness are caused by injury to the articular cartilage, or the smooth white covering over the bones at the joints. Small injuries can become larger over time, and eventually the underlying bone is exposed. Even if the injuries have time to heal fully, different scar tissues can cause different kinds of stiffness.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50 million Americans have some form of chronic joint pain or arthritis. Along with the pain can come a variety of other symptoms, as well.

"We conducted a study a few years ago that identified a substantial minority of retired NFL players who suffered high levels of chronic disease, including osteoarthritis and joint pain," said Dr. Thomas Schwenk, professor of family medicine at University of Michigan. "The pain was associated with significant levels of depression and low levels of daily function, causing significant distress and misery."

"Once their careers are over, a lot of the residual damage causes high level of arthritis and pain, and leads to depression, loss of physical activity and physical self-esteem," said Schwenk. "They often gain weight, especially the lineman, leading to diabetes, hypertension and heart disease."

With so many people playing through injury, a bias has been created for players to get in the game, even when injured, in order to keep their careers going, said Schwenk.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio