Living with osteoarthritis of the knee: Tips for managing function and leading an active life
Ken Meritt, 71, knew he had a serious problem with his right knee when the pain made it difficult for him to engage in even moderate activity. There was a constant, nagging ache when he walked, climbed stairs, got up from a sitting position or even rose from bed at night. A jogger, Meritt worried that he'd have to give that up, too.
After a visit to the doctor, he received the diagnosis: Osteoarthritis of the knee (OAK).
Osteoarthritis of the knee (OAK)
Approximately 21 million people in the U.S. are currently diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the knee, a progressive disease characterized by gradual degradation and loss of cartilage. While the exact cause of OAK is debatable, the impact is well known — pain and a loss of function. The prevalence of OAK has increased rapidly in recent years and is anticipated to continue growing due to factors that include age, obesity, genetics, injury and overuse of the knee in activities such as running, as Meritt found out.
Getting a diagnosis like OAK can be debilitating. While you're exploring options to treat the physical part of the disease, don't forget the mental aspects as well. Stress can have an effect on OAK, so anything from yoga to meditation to spa days can help with that. Depression can also creep into your life on the back of an OAK diagnosis. Talk to your doctor honestly and learn all you can about your options.
Range of treatments
After consulting with his physician, Meritt learned that for patients with severe OAK, treatment options included a total knee replacement or opioids. Neither sounded like a good option to him.
Alan Stanley, 70, a retired deputy director of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, knows all about knee replacement. He had one knee replaced because of bone-on-bone osteoarthritis, and was not looking forward to having the same procedure done on the other knee.
But he didn't have to endure another knee replacement, and Meritt is back to jogging again. How? Both men were able to participate in a clinical trial for a low molecular-weight filtrate biologic of an FDA-approved human serum albumin (HSA) developed by Ampio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NYSE MKT: AMPE). The non-surgical treatment involves a single intra-articular injection, with a goal of reducing inflammation, relieving pain and improving function of the knee. For Meritt, the injection worked like a charm.
"Now I can walk, jog, climb stairs, get up from a chair and sleep without knee pain," Meritt said. "Ampion most certainly worked for my knee. It's pain free."
Stanley experienced similar results. Not only did the pain and disability associated with his OAK disappear after his injection some 18 months ago, but he didn't need that knee replacement after all. In fact, it feels better than the replaced knee, he reported.
Background on HSA
What is this promising drug? Led by Dr. David Bar-Or, the treatment is based on a low molecular filtrate of commercial human serum albumin (HSA). Dr. Bar-Or now serves as Chief Scientific Officer and Director of Ampio Pharmaceuticals and the compound, named Ampion(TM), just reported results in a pivotal Phase 3 trial.
Maintaining an active lifestyle
Here are some tips for staying healthy, easing pain and getting the most out of life while dealing with OAK. (Hint: These tips make sense for people who don't have arthritis, too!)
1. Match activity to ability. Don’t run harder than your knees can handle, and in general, make sure you are mindful of your abilities.
2. Optimize your exercise. Exercise might be the last thing you want to do when you're hurting, but it will improve the quality of your life. It can also strengthen the muscles that support and protect your knees.
3. It’s OK to take a day off. Listen to your body. Rest and relaxation can be just what you need to feel pampered and recharged.
4. Diet matters! Foods rich in vitamin C, like fruits and vegetables, can help, along with omega-3 fatty acids like those found in fish oil. Focus on healthy eating, choosing low-fat dairy, whole grains, fish and lean meats.
5. Lose weight. Carrying extra weight around puts extra stress on your joints.
6. Keep up-to-date on medical initiatives. There is always something new on the medical landscape, so consult with your doctor for developments that may be important to you.