Combating arthritis with low-dose radiation therapy

by Dr. Jonathan Pagan ([email protected]) 957 views 

With no known cure, being diagnosed with arthritis can feel deflating, especially for individuals experiencing debilitating pain, stiffness or limited mobility. Fortunately, a growing number of treatments are available to help alleviate the symptoms. An option that offers great promise is low-dose radiation therapy (LDRT). With no side effects or downtime, LDRT is helping patients with arthritis lead happier, more comfortable and more productive lives.

For many Americans, arthritis is a fact of life. Classified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as a chronic disease, it impacts one in four adults or nearly 60 million people. It is the number one cause of disability in the U.S., with the CDC reporting “annual costs for medical care and lost earnings” of more than $300 billion.

In Arkansas, more than 28% of our population has arthritis. When severe, the symptoms can make it difficult for affected residents to meet the demands of everyday life. Sometimes, its effects can cause individuals to drop out of the workforce entirely, leading to long-lasting financial ramifications for their households and our state’s economy.

So, how can we help Arkansans suffering from arthritis? Depending on their type and symptoms, health care professionals can recommend various treatments, such as over-the-counter pain relievers, prescription medications, steroid injections or surgery. Recently, we’ve seen an uptick in the popularity and use of LDRT among patients and providers. And there’s a reason for that.

Consider a patient who comes in complaining of unbearable pain in their hand. After an evaluation, their physician determines that every joint is affected. The doctor could order multiple steroid shots, or they could treat the entire hand at once. Or take an individual who needs a total knee replacement. He’s set to retire in a year and can’t afford to take the required time off work to heal after surgery. Enter LDRT.

LDRT is a noninvasive option to treat arthritis. Patients undergo an initial consultation and 30-minute planning session, followed by six 10-15-minute sessions, administered twice weekly. The total dosage is much less than standard radiation treatment, allowing patients to return to life as usual immediately following their appointments. Generally, individuals respond about a week and a half after beginning the process. The relief lasts one to two years and can be combined with other treatments for those experiencing pain in other areas of the body. When the effects wear off, patients can repeat the process. LDRT is quick, easy and provides long-term benefits.

For now, no treatments exist to eliminate arthritis. However, individuals can limit the disease’s effects with the help of innovative options like LDRT, now available at CARTI. Within a few appointments, they can return to life as usual, participating in, engaging and enjoying everyday activities, whether golfing, spending time with kids or pursuing their career. To find out what arthritis treatment may be right for them, individuals should speak to their health care provider.

Editor’s note: Dr. Jonathan Pagan is a radiation oncologist at CARTI, a not-for-profit, multidisciplinary cancer care provider. The opinions expressed are those of the author.