Observed today, World Arthritis Day raises awareness about this increasingly common and debilitating condition.
When 28-year-old marketing professional Nikita Sahai started facing trouble in her knees, she thought the pain was temporary and would pass with some rest.
However, when her symptoms worsened and she consulted a specialist, Nikita was given the grim news that she had Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Always assumed to be an ‘older person’s’ ailment, arthritis is now even afflicting youngsters in their 20s. And World Arthritis Day, which is observed on October 12, raises awareness about this condition, and how it affects the lives of millions of people around the globe.
Youngsters getting affected
According to joint replacement surgeon Dr Tejas Upasani, almost 50% of the country’s population has been found suffering from arthritis in one or more of their joints. “RA is, perhaps, the commonest form of arthritis affecting young adults. Women in their 30s especially are being diagnosed with arthritis. Of the joints affected by arthritis, knees and fingers get affected early. Primary reasons for the occurrence of arthritis at an early age, include genetic predisposition, obesity, inactivity, joint damage or ligament injuries and childhood disorders that lead to bone malalignment causing joint degeneration.”
– Have a diet that is rich in calcium, protein, vitamin D and C. A good intake of calcium allows the bone beneath the degenerated surface to resist deforming forces. – Don’t procrastinate setting up an appointment with your doctor when you realise that the joint pain is persistent.
– Engage in physical activity at least four times a week. This will keep your weight in check and strengthen your muscles, which help slowing down arthritis progression.
Are high heels to blame?
Consultant orthopedic surgeon Dr Subhranshu Mohanty says that women who wear ill-fitting high heels are more likely to be struck down by this condition. “Almost 60% of arthritis affects the feet and is often caused by wearing badly fitting shoes. High heels can alter the body’s posture and increase pressure on the foot, ankle and knee joints, increasing the risk of osteoarthritis. Choosing the right footwear minimises stress on the feet and joints, and reduces the risk of injury and joint damage. Opt for a round-toed shoe with a heel height of two to three centimetres and with a shock-absorbent sole to help minimise shock to the joints.”
Symptoms and diagnosis
Arthritis starts as an inflammation of the lining of the joint, which slowly becomes uncontrollable, resulting in joint destruction. “The common feature of all forms of arthritis is a loss of smoothness of joint surfaces so that low-friction movement is replaced by irregular, gritty, high-friction agony. The joint changes, in turn, can cause changes to the muscles and ligaments surrounding the joint. Therefore, patients can also feel pain in the back or ankles. A person affected by arthritis often experiences pain and stiffness in the knees. It usually starts in the morning and decreases as the day progresses,” says Dr Upasani. Adds Dr Mohanty, “A thorough examination is done to understand the fluid around the joint, tender joints and difficulty in moving a joint. Some types of arthritis may cause joint deformity. This may be a sign of severe, untreated RA. Blood tests and joint X-rays are done to check for infection and other causes of arthritis. Any kind of wear and tear of the joints can be best identified through an MRI.”
Treatment“During the initial stage, a patient can undergo medical treatment, which involves drugs and other non-invasive therapies. While at an advanced stage, surgical option is the preferred one. Joint replacement is widely performed these days in young patients and results are far more superior. However, the artificial joint has its own life of approximately 15 to 20 years and, a revision surgery may eventually be needed,” ends Dr Upasani.
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