Health Q&As: Alternative arthritis treatment and recurring cystitis

Dr David Roche / 03 June 2014

Saga Magazine's GP, Dr Roche, answers questions about alternative remedies for arthritis, and ways to combat frequent bouts of cystitis.

Do alternative remedies for arthritis work?

I’m bombarded with ‘magic’ arthritis cures through my letter box and online, and have tried many that have not helped. The latest I’m tempted by are Doctor’s Arthrosolve and Gopo, a rose-hip compound with benefits confirmed by a study at Sheffield Hallam University. Can any of these products bring me any relief from the pain, or am I just wasting my money?

Being an orthodox medical practitioner I confine my recommendations to those remedies which satisfy strict criteria for effectiveness. Neither of these products would qualify at the moment and have arisen out of the complementary medicine industry.

A lot more detailed research would be required for both before they could be licensed as orthodox medicines with a known and predictable effect. That is not to say they are ineffective, just that their true value is unknown.

Part of the problem is that both remedies have a multitude of chemical compounds within them and it would be impossible to know, if they are effective, which particular compound is responsible. In contrast orthodox remedies are generally highly purified single compounds that have been extensively studied. I would save your money for the moment and wait to see if any further definitive research appears.

What can I do about frequent bouts of cystitis?

As I have got older I have become more and more prone to cystitis. Why is that and can I do anything about it?

Cystitis is a bacterial infection in the urine. It causes pain passing urine or the desire to go very often, amongst other symptoms. It is commoner in both sexes as you get older but particularly in women where it can be quite a problem, often requiring courses of antibiotics to clear it and recurring frequently.

Following the menopause the natural defences against infection are reduced. The tissues of the bladder and vagina are hormone sensitive and without those hormones the tissues become thinner and drier and less able to resist infection.

The bacteria responsible often come from the patient's own skin surface; no matter how hygienic you are, bacteria from the intestines are present on the skin between your legs, waiting for the opportunity to get into the bladder. The majority of episodes of cystitis are caused by these bacteria.

Drinking plenty of water and ensuring a regular flow of urine is the most important preventative measure. If episodes continue, then you should consult your GP who will exclude other serious causes. There are treatments to supplement the female hormone oestrogen back into the vaginal and bladder tissues. This can be very effective.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.