Indians beware - smoking can cause arthritis (Oct 12 is World Arthritis Day)

October 12th, 2011 - 1:56 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 12 (IANS) Anshuman Batra, 37, a habitual smoker, always wanted to kick the butt. What finally compelled him to give up cigarettes after 20 years was arthritis - a disease that affects one in six people in India, especially smokers.

After suffering from severe knee pain for a week, Batra was diagnosed with osteoarthritis and was shocked to learn that smoking had played a key role in it.

“I was a heavy smoker since I had my first drag in school. Knowing the ill effects like heart disease and cancer, I always wanted to quit. But it came as a shocker to learn that smoking could also cause arthritis,” Batra told IANS.

A form of joint disorder, arthritis involves the inflammation of joints and is usually associated with swelling, pain and stiffness.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis characterised by a breakdown of cartilage, causing pain and stiffness. It occurs in 25 percent people above 50 years as the knee and hip joints wear off gradually with age.

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.

“More and more young people are now suffering from osteoarthritis. Earlier those in their late 50s or early 60s were affected by it but now even people in their late 30s and early 40s are also diagnosed with it,” said Rakesh Mahajan, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at BL Kapoor Hospital told IANS.

According to Mahajan, an unhealthy lifestyle, including smoking and lack of exercise, are the culprits.

“Smoking results in the narrowing of arteries that carry blood to our joints, causing inflammation and arthritis,” said Mahajan.

Mahajan’s views are corroborated by a study done by Mayo Clinic, Florida, US which revealed that smokers were more than twice as likely to have significant cartilage loss as non-smokers.

“Cartilage cells act as a cushion between our joints and when these are attacked, pain is bound to occur,” Gurinder Bedi, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Fortis, Vasant Kunj, told IANS.

“Smoking affects cartilage cells and over a period of time weakens them, which leads to joint inflammation,” said Bedi.

Some doctors even blame mobile phones citing excess typing as the reason behind thumb arthritis.

“The pressure applied at the tip of the thumb is magnified at the base of the thumb. Repetitive motion causes pain and inflammation of the basal joint leading to thumb arthritis,” said Ramneek Mahajan, senior orthopaedic surgeon, Orthonova Hospital.

According to doctors, increased awareness about the disease have also helped in early detection, especially among younger patients.

“It’s a fact that osteoarthritis cases are increasing in youngsters due to unhealthy lifestyles. Awareness about the disease and access to medical care has helped in prompt revelation,” Rajesh Malhotra, professor of orthopaedics at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), told IANS.

The doctors also advised that people above the age of 40 should exercise cautiously and refrain from heavy running, jumping and other similar exercises that may strain the joints.

“People should not shy from exercising because of arthritis because ultimately being fit is of utmost importance. However, choosing the right exercises is key,” said Mahajan.

“Cycling, swimming and jogging are the perfect exercises,” he added.

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