New Survey Uncovers Significant Impact of Osteoarthritis (OA) on Sufferers' Everyday Lives

By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: May 26, 2010

“I was very, very active all through my life, from the time I was a child up until ten years ago. I skied, swam, played tennis and golfed. And all of a sudden, I couldn’t do anything anymore. That’s when I decided I wasn’t going to live the rest of my life that way,” said Mia Benjes of Duxbury, a suburb of Boston. “I gained 30 pounds over the last couple of years. And the sad thing is, my Golden Retriever gained ten pounds because we couldn’t walk anymore. So he suffered along with me.”

A national survey of osteoarthritis (OA) patients released in June by the National Council on the Aging (NCOA) found that respondents who gained weight due to their OA reported an average weight gain of 42 pounds since their diagnosis, with women more likely to report weight gain. This can be attributed in part to their inability to exercise as much as they would like to, a feeling expressed by 75 percent of survey respondents. Additionally, 85 percent of those who gained weight reported lower self-esteem as a result.

Loss of sleep, which can take a serious toll on personal and professional relationships, productivity and public safety, was identified in the survey as another negative consequence of OA, with 37 percent of sufferers reporting two or more hours of sleep lost per night due to pain caused by OA.

“The sleep loss was bad,” Benjes says. I got used to it after a while and I’d just get up in the middle of the night and read. But it was very uncomfortable at night.”

Thirty-three percent of survey respondents have chosen not to go to a store because they could not find parking close to the entrance. “I would go to the supermarket and decide when I got there if it was more than say 30 steps to the door, I’d turn around and go home again. I couldn’t even make it to do my grocery shopping it was so painful,” Benjes says.

The survey also investigated the profound transformation in treatment trends among OA sufferers, finding that more than two in five (43 percent) of those who have previously used prescription medications have stopped using them. In addition, millions of OA sufferers are dissatisfied with their current treatments and are possibly under-treating or not treating their joint pain at all, according to the survey.

Compared to one year ago, higher percentages of OA patients aged 50-65 are pursuing other treatment options, such as relaxation techniques, physical therapy and herbs/natural remedies. However, they also feel their joint pain is less controlled (24 percent reported their pain was “not very controlled” in 2005 vs. 16 percent in 2004) and are more likely to report that their OA is severe (26 percent reported severe joint pain in 2004 vs. 35 percent in 2005). Three in four (75 percent) patients are interested in more aggressive treatments for their OA.

NCOA Commences Patient Education Campaign to Help Fill the Information Gap

“The results of this study confirm just how serious the effects of joint pain and stiffness are for the more than 20 million Americans who suffer from OA, making clear the need to educate OA sufferers about their options,” said James Firman, president and CEO of NCOA.

Given the clear and immediate need to provide OA sufferers with more information regarding the effective treatment of their joint pain and immobility, NCOA is partnering with the National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses (NAON) and DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc. to roll out a comprehensive patient awareness campaign that aims to responsibly educate OA sufferers about the full range of treatment options, including joint replacement, which can help relieve pain and improve function for patients with OA.

The first in a series of patient events was held in Morris Plains Community Center in New Jersey. Additional events held at senior centers throughout the country will feature unique and engaging educational tools developed in collaboration with orthopaedic surgeons to provide OA sufferers with the information they need about the progressive nature of the disease and the treatments available to them. A custom-designed board game will foster learning, dialogue and a sense of community, allowing attendees to gain a greater understanding of OA as well as the benefits of various treatments. In addition, a screening video will guide attendees through a series of movements, such as walking, driving, gardening and golfing to help them identify their level of pain and immobility, so that they can initiate productive conversations with their doctor about treating the disease. At each event, a physician, a nurse specialist and an OA sufferer who has benefited from joint replacement will be on hand to answer attendees’ questions and provide additional information.

“I think when you come to the conclusion yourself that you can’t live that way, you have to do something about it. The only answer for me was surgery. It changed my life tremendously,” says Benjes. “I know that I was depressed, but once I made the decision to go ahead and do something about it, I felt a lot better. I felt as if I was taking control of my life again.”

For more information about OA or to find a schedule of events, sufferers can also access the campaign resources at (888) 273-9029 or www.jointpainoptions.com

The performance of joint replacements depends on age, weight, activity level and other factors. There are potential risks and recovery takes time. People with current infections or conditions limiting rehabilitation should not have this surgery. The patient may experience implant complications such as loosening, fracturing, or wearing of the components, which could result in pain, stiffness or dislocation of the joint. Only an orthopaedic surgeon can tell if joint replacement is right for the patient.

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