Gregory T. Austad, MD


As a rheumatologist at Tanner Clinic, Dr. Gregory T. Austad specializes in disorders of the joints, muscles and bones. His specialty is autoimmune diseases that cause inflammation, including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

Dr. Austad came to Tanner Clinic in 2012 with notable experience and education. A native of Ogden, Dr. Austad graduated from Weber State University with a BA in Spanish. He continued course work at Ohio State University in Columbus and was accepted at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

Following his MD, Dr. Austad completed his internal medicine residency at Wilford Hall Medical Center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. He stayed in the San Antonio area to fulfill a specialized fellowship in rheumatology at the Brooke Army Medical Center. He is board certified in rheumatology and internal medicine.

As a member of the Air Force, Dr. Austad, or Major Austad, was the Rheumatology Flight Commander at Brooke Army Medical Center. He also served as an assistant professor of medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md. Among his military honors are the National Defense Service Medal and Global War on Terror Service Medal, as well as two Air Force Commendation Medals.

Dr. Austad is married with five children. He enjoys family hikes, fishing and his specialty hobby: Southern-style BBQ.

What Patients Say About Dr. Austad

“I have bee seeing Dr. Gregory Austad at the Layton Tanner Clinic for about 2 1/2 years. He has always answered my questions and concerns – care has been excellent.” – Ute on Google, March 2016

“I‘m a newer patient of Dr. Austad’s. I feel so blessed. What a great person Dr. Austad is. I’ve been so fortunate to get in here and hope to be able to stay. Everyone is so nice here. Thank you so much for your hard work.”   —   Matthew via an in-office comment form, Feb. 2, 2015

“Ever since I met Dr. Austad and he took on my case, I have been very satisfied with his care and the concern he has shown for my health. I don’t like doctors very much and I don’t trust them. However, Dr. Austad is the only the second doctor I have had in my life that I like and trust with my care.”   —   Nita via an in-office comment form, June 13, 2014

“Dr. Austad is a fabulous doctor. He takes very good care of me and my rheumatoid arthritis.”   —   Jody on Facebook, Aug. 9, 2013

 

Specialized Focus
It's Easy to Confuse Different Types of Arthritis

Not all types of arthritis are equal.

True, all arthritis relates to the origin of the word — arthron which in ancient Greek meant “joint.” One word, however, represents some very different diseases.

Osteoarthritis arthritis is the most common. However, there are other, often more painful, types of arthritis. Among them is rheumatoid arthritis.

Here’s the difference: With osteoarthritis, the cartilage in the joints wears away with time, leaving bone rubbing on bone.

However, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, where the immune system cells think they recognize an invader and attack the lining of the joints.

Here are some other differences:

Osteo
Rheumatoid
CAUSE
Wear
and tear
Autoimmune system out of whack
AGE OF ONSET
Generally older people
Most often strikes in middle age, or can strike as young as 3 or 4
GENDER
Male and female
Primarily women
LENGTH OF ONSET
Over many years
Very quick, over a few months or even weeks
WHERE IT HURTS
Typically in joints with a lot of use, like knees or hips
Anywhere in the body; it’s usually symmetrical in that both elbows will hurt, for instance

— Tanner Clinic staff

Obscure but Common Disease Fuses Spine Straight as a Pole

As far as the limelight goes, some autoimmune diseases get all the twinkle. Lupus is among these media darlings, as are multiple sclerosis, celiac disease and type 1 diabetes.

There is, however, an autoimmune disorder you’ve probably never heard of. Even its name is textbookish: ankylosing spondylitis. But this odd-sounding disease is more common than you might suppose, often because it’s mistaken for more common ailments.

Is that back pain an old football injury? Or ankylosing spondylitis. Is that neck stiffness just from working out? Or ankylosing spondylitis.

That’s the job of a rheumatologist, such as Tanner Clinic’s Dr. Greg Austad, who makes the distinction and then provides expert treatment.

Ankylosing spondylitis is an arthritic process that begins when a young person develops an autoimmune response to some kind of foreign antigen such as a virus. They’ll first notice a stiff and tender lower back — actually centered in the sacroiliac joints, which connect our spine to our pelvis. Next is more stiffness and sometimes very significant pain, says Dr. Austad.

Before long, ankylosing spondylitis actually fuses this lower-spine joint, he said, and then “starts working its way up the spine to a point where the whole spine has become fused, like a bamboo pole.” Ankylosing spondylitis cements the vertebrae so patients are left with “fused spines” — their neck is fused and their back is fused. And thus unable to stand up straight.

Disease presents as stiff back

Ankylosing spondylitis must be treated early on, since once the discs are fused, the results are permanent with no surgical cure. The difficulty, said Dr. Austad, is that this disease tends to affect young people and, in these early stages, it often appears as a back that’s stiff after a raucous game of football or after finishing a strenous run. Often, it’s confused with a spinal injury.
“It has to be caught and treated early — and aggressively — because it will cause irreversible damage later on,” Dr. Austad said.

A stiff back isn’t the only symptom; others include:

  • Red, painful eyes (iritis)
  • Hunched shoulders
  • Rashes on the palms or bottom of the feet
  • Red, hot and swollen joints

“And those manifestations are what usually brings them into see me,” said the rheumatologist. “I’ll say, ‘OK, let’s get some x-rays of your back.’ ”

The disorder is diagnosed through x-ray, a physical exam and patient history.

Dr. Austad sees patients at all stages of the disease. There are the early-comers: “They’ll come in very early with hot, red swollen knees. I’ll ask them if they have back pain, and they’ll say, ‘Well, you know, I’ve had back pain for a few years.’”

And then there are the longtime sufferers: “I’ve also seen people who’ve had ankylosing spondylitis for years and it was never diagnosed — they thought it was chronic back pain.”

Symptoms of fused spine irreversible

When Dr. Austad looks at this patient’s entire clinical picture, he’ll likely find someone who has a history of iritis, inflammatory arthritis, and “Oh, by the way, my back doesn’t move very well.”

Once the damage is done, it can’t be reversed. But there are some great medications to stop ankylosing spondylitis from progressing. Dr. Austad said it’s been found that scheduled nonsteroidal anti inflammatories, such as Aleve (naproxen), “not only decrease the joint pain, but also decrease the erosive damage that gets done.”

Keeping pace with technology

Newer treatments on the market also slow down pain and damage without the potential kidney and liver damage caused by long-term use of these over-the-counter pills. Also new are TNF inhibitors (as in tumor necrosis factor), which block the TNF proteins that cause the inflammation.

“That’s one thing I like about rheumatology — you can give people their lives back,” Dr. Austad said.

He adds, “Unless you’ve had a disease like an inflammatory arthritis, you just can’t understand how painful and debilitating it is. I have people come in in tears, unable to move, thinking their life is over.”

 

In the Media