Age no bar as arthritis strikes India’s young (Oct 12 is World Arthritis Day)

October 12th, 2010 - 3:30 pm ICT by IANS  

By Madhulika Sonkar
New Delhi, Oct 12 (IANS) Investment banker Priyam Joshi, 33, left her job to take care of her one-year-old son. But life wasn’t the breather she had hoped for as the joint pains she had been ignoring for over a year became severe. She was diagnosed with arthritis - a disease that affects over 30 percent of the Indian population.

“After my son’s birth, I began suffering from joint pains. A year later, the pain became severe. I had loss of appetite and fatigue,” Joshi told IANS. “When I could not even do daily activities like climbing stairs, I decided to consult a doctor,” Joshi added.

It turned out that she had rheumatoid arthritis (RA) - chronic inflammation of joints - mostly believed to affect old women. “I had never heard of arthritis in young women,” she said.

RA, an auto-immune disease, is caused by the body’s tissues mistakenly attacking their own immune system. And doctors believe it no longer afflicts only the old and ailing and often stems from lifestyle related injuries.

“Age is not a factor in arthritis. It can affect the young and old alike. Rheumatoid arthritis affects young women after child birth or due to injury-stress,” Raju Vaishya, orthopaedic surgeon in Apollo Hospital, told IANS.

World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that one in six people and one in three families are affected by arthritis in India. According to experts, RA and osteoarthritis (OA) are the most common types.

“RA involves multiple joints of hand and legs, and is mostly found in young women. It can be due to injury or even after delivery,” said Vaishya. “OA is usually an aging phenomenon in the knee and hip bones. It affects men and women equally.”

Osteoarthritis occurs in 25 percent people above 50 years as the knee and hip joints wear off gradually with age. Doctors say lack of awareness is the main reason behind the surge in the number of arthritis patients.

“Most of my patients who are over 40 mistakenly assume that arthritis is part of the aging process. So symptoms such as joint pain, stiffness in muscles are ignored,” R.K. Sharma, senior orthopaedic consultant of Apollo Hospital, told IANS.

Pain in the joints while climbing stairs, squatting, sitting cross-legged, and swelling of joints are some symptoms of arthritis.

In the absence of a sureshot cure for arthritis, early diagnosis can help provide better treatment.

“People need to understand the disease correctly so that precaution can be taken much earlier in life and patients can get the right treatment. There is no definite cure for arthritis,” S.K.S. Marya, chief orthopaedic surgeon of Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket, told IANS.

“Pain can be reduced and controlled through medicine and physiotherapy. If diagnosed late, one might even have to go for a joint replacement surgery as the damage is irreparable,” said Marya.

As the disease also targets the young, doctors advise yoga and natural ways to fight arthritis. Seeking immediate relief by taking anti-inflammatory medicines is not a wise option, feel doctors.

“Prolonged use of pain killers and other similar drugs have severe side effects. Natural ways are the best options as it is a non-invasive way of treating the disease,” said Marya.

Yoga and light exercise are advised along with intake of anti-oxidants like Vitamin C found in lemon and citrus fruits, calcium and Vitamin D through milk, curd and cheeze in the diet.

“Yoga, pilates and brisk walk are some exercises that can help prevent arthritis. People with arthritis need not lead painful, restricted lives if awareness and treatment are provided at the right time,” added Sharma.

(Madhulika Sonkar can be contacted at madhulika.s@ians.in)

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