Help on the horizon for arthritis sufferers
The good news about arthritis is that medical science is coming up with new drugs that help to alleviate symptoms.
The bad news is that most people cannot afford them.
"There has been strides in the last couple of years with pharmaceutical companies that might help.
The problem is that it is cost prohibitive for most people," said Bill Wahl, president of the local chapter of the Arthritis Foundation.
Wahl has osteoarthritis while his wife Sharon suffers with rheumatoid arthritis, a more debilitating form of the disease, he said.
Wahl said there are 104 different types of arthritis, a disease that affects the joints, causing inflammation and pain.
Sharon's deteriorating health at the hands of arthritis was the determining factor when buying a house in the Camelback area of Kingman six years ago.
"The main reason we bought this house was because it has no steps.
We anticipated that some day I will have to be in a wheelchair," Sharon said.
She is currently on a waiting list for a new drug approved by the FDA last June.
Enbrel, must be injected twice a week and costs about $1,000 a month.
"Add to that the expense of blood tests to make sure the medicine is not affecting other parts of the body, the cost of the injections and doctors visits and it ends up costing about $15,000 a year," Bill said.
"Insurance is not paying for these drugs in a lot of cases.
Medicare is just now coming around to paying for some of these remedies."
Meanwhile Sharon is taking chemotherapy-type drugs that help inhibit the progression of the disease.
She said she has good and bad days, although the joints in her hands have become crippled since the onset of symptoms about 10 years ago.
But she has made adjustments to the aches and pains that make washing her own hair, bathing and dressing a difficult and painful experience.
Grooming aids such as a long-handled brush and a long-handled, lightweight hair washer that allows her to reach the entire scalp with her hand positioned in front of her chest have helped.
Other aids include grab bars in the shower and dressing sticks.
Bill said one of the problems with arthritis is that it limits your movements and your ability to grip things like doorknobs.
A non-slip rubber grip that fits over the doorknob helps.
Bill created a safe stepstool for Sharon by attaching a long handle on the side of the stool so that she can steady herself when using it.
Some of Sharon's friends who have arthritis have been equally inventive.
"A friend had her washing machine put up on blocks so that she doesn't have to bend over," she said.
Sharon also keeps her body moving with a twice-a-week exercise program called PACE (People with Arthritis Can Exercise) at the Del E.
Webb Wellness & Rehabilitation Center.
The stretching and moving exercises done with chairs have helped in more ways than one.
"It keeps you going.
People with arthritis tend to stay home a lot.
This helps you to get out and talk to other people with similar problems," Sharon said.
The Wahls also attend the Arthritis and Fibromyalgia Support Group from 1 p.m.
to 3 p.m.
the fourth Wednesday of the month at the center conference room.
Bill said between 30 and 50 people show up for meetings, with topics ranging from new herbs that have helped, to different treatments such as massage and chiropractic care that have been effective.
"We heard that glucosamine sulfate along with other sulfates have helped.
It is good to know what's available.
But you have to be careful what you are taking.
The best thing to do is see a doctor," he said.
Arthritis affects approximately 890,000 adults in Arizona – 25.4 percent of the adult population, according to the Arizona Department of Public Health.
For more information about the Arthritis Foundation or the Arthritis and Fibromyalgia Support Group at 692-7877.