health for your
other tissue in the body, cartilage
can’t regrow, and when too much
cartilage is lost, symptoms of
and swelling—can result.
Symptoms generally appear after
age 40, often in the hands, hips
The most common type of
arthritis, OA affects an estimated
27 million American adults. More
than two-thirds of people will
have degenerative joint changes
by age 70, says Costco member
Imran Iqbal, M.D., a rheumatolo-gist with Methodist Charlton
Medical Center in Dallas, Texas.
Today’s longer life spans and
higher rates of obesity (a risk factor for OA) mean that stressed
joints must perform longer, putting more people at risk, he says.
“There’s no substitute for a
complete family history and medical exam,” says Costco member
Nathan Wei, M.D., clinical director of the Arthritis Treatment
Center in Frederick, Maryland. In
addition to a family history and a
physical examination, a doctor
may use laboratory tests, X-rays
and MRI tests to determine the
extent of joint damage.
There’s no known cure for
OA, though emerging research is
paving the way for new treatments in which patients may be
able to retain and even regrow
cartilage in arthritic joints. But for
now, common treatments include
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers such as ibuprofen, combined with exercise and lifestyle modifications, such as
weight loss to reduce joint strain.
Once frowned upon for OA patients,
exercise is now viewed as essential for successful treatment. “Exercise is as important as
medication,” says Wei. Low-impact forms of
exercise such as swimming, resistance training and stretching are ideal.
arthritis A closer look at America’s leading cause of disability
By Malia Jacobson
THE CASUAL OBSERVER would never guess
that Costco member Tony Bonuccelli, 32, has
arthritis. A grade-school music teacher in
Moscow, Idaho, Bonuccelli spends his days
keeping the beat with active students. Many
nights and weekends, he can be found enthusiastically leading the school band at sports
events. But before he was diagnosed with
rheumatoid arthritis in 2009, mysterious foot
pain and joint swelling nearly sidelined the
easygoing young musician.
Like Bonuccelli, arthritis defies stereotypes. That’s because arthritis is not a singular, specific disease: There are more than 150
different types of arthritis in existence, affecting more than 50 million Americans and
counting. Cases are expected to reach 67 million by 2030, according to the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Arthritis—a general term for conditions
affecting the joints and surrounding tissues—
is the most common cause of disability in the
United States, limiting mobility for 21 million
Americans. But thanks to advances in under-
standing and treating arthritis, many patients
like Bonuccelli are able to live full lives free of
More than half of arthritis-related hospitalizations stem from OA. This degenerative
form of “wear-and-tear” arthritis occurs as
cartilage is worn down over time. Unlike
The Costco Connection
Costco members will find anti-inflammatory
pain relievers, heat wraps and exercise
items at their local Costco and can fill prescriptions at the Costco pharmacy.
MAY 2012 ;e Costco Connection
CONTINUED ON PAGE 49
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune
disease that causes chronic joint inflammation and a wide range of symptoms, from
pain, joint swelling and weakness to weight
loss and low-grade fever. RA and OA are
quite different, says Costco member Philip J.
Mease, M.D., director of rheumatology
research at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle:
“Osteoarthritis is a more natural process [of]
cartilage loss, while rheumatoid arthritis is a
specific disease state caused by abnormal
immune system function.”