Image used for representational purpose only. (File Photo)
Image used for representational purpose only. (File Photo)

Conquering Arthritis

In India, arthritis is a significant health concern due to its impact on individuals’ quality of life.

HYDERABAD: Arthritis, a condition affecting millions worldwide, often begins with seemingly innocuous joint pain. However, ignoring these early signs can lead to severity. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), approximately 180 million people in India are estimated to be affected by arthritis. As we observe World Arthritis Day on October 12, this year’s theme, ‘Living with an RMD at all stages of life’, encourages us to delve into the roots of arthritis and decode the theme with expert insights.

Basically, arthritis is a disorder that affects bones and joints, causing pain and inflammation. In India, arthritis is a significant health concern due to its impact on individuals’ quality of life. Unfortunately, around 30% of joint diseases can evolve into life-threatening systemic problems, especially in young women with symptoms persisting for more than six weeks. These diseases may lead to complications in various organ systems unless diagnosed early.

It doesn’t stop with one type, there are several types of arthritis, but the two most common ones are Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). OA typically affects individuals above 50 years, causing wear and tear of weight-bearing joints like knees and hips. The most common symptoms are joint pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility, often associated with aging, joint injuries, obesity, and repetitive stress. On the other hand, RA predominantly affects individuals aged 16-50. It’s basically an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks its own tissues, leading to joint pain, swelling, fatigue, and systemic symptoms. Arthritis can also be seen in childhood and adolescence, sometimes requiring specialised care from pediatric rheumatologists.

Beyond OA and RA, there are various types of arthritis such as Gout, Psoriatic Arthritis, Ankylosing Spondylitis, and Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, each with its unique characteristics and affected joints. It’s important to understand that arthritis is a complex condition and can be influenced by genetics, lifestyle, and underlying health conditions, making it a challenge that can affect people of all ages.

Many risk factors are associated to arthritis, some of them include age, gender, family history, obesity, joint injuries, occupational hazards, infections, and autoimmune conditions. If you observe these risk factors, it doesn’t guarantee arthritis, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, managing weight, and taking preventive measures can help reduce the risk. Regular exercise, stress management, and joint protection are key to arthritis prevention.

Coming to the treatment for arthritis, it depends on the type and severity. Common medications like NSAIDs, DMARDs can help. Other options include corticosteroids and physical therapy. Apart from this nutrition and lifestyle changes can significantly help manage arthritis symptoms. Consuming anti-inflammatory foods, adequate vitamin D, and antioxidant-rich foods can reduce joint pain. Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial, and low-impact exercise, stress management, and heat/cold therapy can alleviate pain. 

Dr Ratnakar Rao
Dr Ratnakar Rao

“In patients with arthritis long-standing and who are unfortunate not to have been seen and treated by trained and experienced rheumatologists, the joints may get damaged and their structure completely disorganised and destroyed. In such situations the only way out is to get the joints replaced with artificial joints,” says Dr Ratnakar Rao, Consultant Orthopedic Surgeon, Care Hospitals.

Recent advancements in arthritis research include advanced imaging techniques, regenerative therapies, precision medicine, and gene therapy. It’s time for people to learn about arthritis and break the common misconceptions around it, like crackling knuckles cause arthritis, exercising can worsen the pain and thinking arthritis is a normal part of ageing.

“Excess weight puts additional stress on the joints, particularly on the knees and hips. Maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise can help reduce the risk of developing arthritis,” said Dr Arun Dev, Consultant Trauma, Joint Replacement Arthroscopy & Sports medicine, Renova Hospitals.

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