Arthritis can hit even the physically active (World Arthritis Day Oct 12)

October 11th, 2010 - 9:36 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 11 (IANS) Does arthritis affect only those who don’t exercise? Experts say sportspersons, dancers and others with high physical activity too are at risk, mainly due to joint injuries.

Sprains, swollen muscles, knee injuries and fractures have been found to be the reason for developing osteoarthritis, a type of arthritis that is caused by the breakdown and eventual loss of the cartilage of one or more joints.

“You never know when that pain aggravates and the swollen joints take the shape of arthritis. Today’s young athletes may become tomorrow’s osteoarthritis patients,” warns Raju Vaishya, Senior Consultant Orthopaedics and Joint Replacement Surgery at the Apollo Hospital here.

The problem is caused when cartilage, a protein substance that serves as a “cushion” between the bones of the joints, degenerates. It is therefor also known as degenerative arthritis.

“There are two ways in which a sport injury leads to arthritis. The first is when a ligament is hurt. It leads to instability of the joint and ultimately it damages the cartilage,” said Manish Shah, Senior orthopedic surgeon from Shah Hospital, Ahmedabad.

“The second is when the cartilage is hit directly. Human cartilage does not repair it self so any damage is permanent and requires a surgery,” he said.

Osteoarthritis affects approximately 21 million of the nearly 43 million people with arthritis. It affects one in six people and is expected to reach epidemic proportions by 2020.

“Any injury to the cartilage to or injury through minuscule tear will ultimately lead to arthritis of joints. Once the cartilage is injured, the damage is permanent,” said Rajeev K. Sharma, Senior Consultant at the Apollo Hospitals.

It commonly affects hands, feet, spine and large weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and knees.

Most cases of osteoarthritis have no known cause and are referred to as primary osteoarthritis. When the cause of the osteoarthritis is known, the condition is referred to as secondary osteoarthritis.

It is, however, curable.

“Of late we are seeing cartilage transplant. In this method a part of the cartilage is taken out, regrown and placed back. But it works only for small injuries, for the larger ones, knee replacement is the option,” Shah said.

Differing slightly, Sharma says: “Surface orthoplasty is the option for now. In future maybe cartilage regeneration will become best option.”

However, they agree that prevention is the best option — as the cure is complicated.

According to Vaishya, proper nutrition and hydration, eating fresh fruits and vegetables and consumption of milk products provide good nutrient for the nourishment of cartilage of the joint.

“Prevention is better. If you have a fracture, you know that once the bone is cemented, it is fine. But for ligament damage, the damage only increases,” Shah said.

“Regular exercise and medication in time for ligament injuries is the best way to avoid complications.”

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