Arthritis: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding Your Arthritis. Fries JF. Revised edition. Reading, MA. Addison- Wesley, 1986, 262 pages, paperback, $9.95.
Ever since Dr Fries (who is currently Chief of the Arthritis Clinic at Stanford University) first published Arthritis in 1979, the book has been tremendously successful. For example, it has long been recommended by the Arthritis Foundation as the best general resource on arthritis for its trainers and teachers of the Self-Help Course. The revised edition has not changed its self-help format, but it has been updated to reflect the most current knowledge of disease process, medications, life-style considerations, and the management of functional common problems.
The book is divided into three sections. Part I, "Understanding Arthritis," outlines the eight major categories of the disease: synovitis, attachment arthritis, crystal arthritis, infections, cartilage degeneration, muscle inflammation, local and general conditions, and connective tissue disease. The readability of this section is particularly good; medical terms are used, but are well defined in the context of the narrative. A clear diagram of a joint precedes each section, highlighting the appropriate anatomical structure that contributes to each category.
Part II, "Managing Your Arthritis," assists and encourages persons to assume greater control and responsibility for managing a chronic illness. An overview of self-management strategies such as work, diet, rest and exercise, and reasonable expectations is provided. The information on drug therapy is well presented. Several categories are addressed, including aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents, immunosuppressive drugs, anti-malarials, and experimental agents. Special hints are given for several major drugs from the patient perspective. For example, the author states, "You must learn to be patient with gold treatment" and goes on to review the drug's slow mechanism of action. Part II also includes chapters on laboratory tests, quackery, and safely saving money. Since over half of the persons with significant arthritis are victimized by at least one confidence game, the discussions of quackery and saving money wisely are particularly helpful.
The self-assessment or problem-solving section of the book is especially valuable. Simple decision charts complement a written narrative to help arthritics deal with general problems such as fatigue, fever, and morning stiffness; problems with localized pain, night pain, and pain after exercise; and problems caused by medications. The discussion of functional difficulties (using the toilet, eating, opening packages, dressing) presents practical suggestions to help persons maintain independence and control.
Since over one-third of the elderly population experiences some kind of the 100 types of arthritis-related diseases, this text is particularly useful for nurses who work with older adults in ambulatory settings. Although many sight-impaired persons will find it difficult to read the small print, the book can be a very useful reference. Most importantly, it is an authoritative, reliable resource, a vital factor with so many sources of misinformation about arthritis available to the public.