An inflammatory condition that causes pain and stiffness in joints, arthritis can affect one or multiple joints. The debilitating condition that restricts range of movement and affects functional life is known to affect millions across the world. As such, if left untreated, it may inhibit your movement altogether, say experts.
On World Arthritis Day, observed every year on October 12, here’s everything you need to know about the condition, as per Dr Biren Nadkarni, senior consultant orthopedic and joint replacement surgeon at Sitaram Bhartia Institute and Holy Family Hospital, New Delhi. This year’s theme is don’t delay, connect today’.
What are the symptoms?
Regardless of the type of arthritis, one may experience fever, lymph nodes swelling, weight loss, tiredness, inability to use your hand, difficulty in walking, and poor sleep. Here is how you can distinguish regular pain from early signs of arthritis:
*Stiffness and swelling in joints.
*Your range of motion may also decrease.
*Redness of the skin around the joint.
*Unexplained joint pain usually accompanied by fever.
*Difficulty in carrying out daily chores due to joint pain.
*Pain killers also cannot cure joint pains.
What is the most common type of arthritis?
There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, with different causes and treatment methods. Two of the most common types are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Osteoarthritis affects older people, especially after the age of 50 years. It is a degenerative joint disease in which the pain or swelling occurs due to the progressive loss of cartilage. Osteoarthritis can affect almost any joint in the body, but commonly occurs in the weight-bearing joints such as knees and hips. It can also affect fingers and any joint with previous injury from trauma, infection, or inflammation. The onset of osteoarthritis is gradual and has no serious debilitating effect in the beginning in many people, although it can change the shape and appearance of the joint, said Dr Nadkarni.
On the other hand, Rheumatoid arthritis can occur at any age; even in younger people as young as 30 years and is mostly found in between 30-50 years of age. The prevalence is higher in women by two to three times more as compared to men. It tends to involve pain, aches, stiffness, and swelling in and around one or more joints. The symptoms can develop gradually or suddenly. Certain rheumatic conditions can also involve the immune system and various internal organs of the body. Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis is also one form of arthritis that affects the young population, usually between 12-18 years of age.
Who is at risk of developing arthritis?
Arthritis may not be at the top of your mind now but it’s important to pay attention to the little habits that can cause issues down the road:
*People who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop arthritis. The more weight you put on, the more is the amount of burden you give to your hips, back, and feet.
*Consumption of over-processed foods like sugar and white flour can lead to weight gain, which is hard on sore joints. Replace them with fruits, nuts, and whole grains.
*Texting frequently and holding your phone in the exact same position can cause “smartphone thumb”. “Texting stresses joints in your hands, especially your thumbs. So, if you want to keep arthritis at bay – minimise thumb texting or use the voice function to keep texting hands-free. Texting can be bad for your shoulders and neck, too,” said Dr Nadkarni.
*Wearing high heels all the time places your feet in an awkward position that stresses joints, strains muscles, and can lead to misalignment of the back. Women who wear heels daily must note that this habit may increase their risk of developing osteoarthritis and foot pain.
*Injuries also act as risk factors. People who have injured a knee in adolescence or young adulthood were three times more likely to develop osteoarthritis in that knee, compared to those who had not suffered an injury.
Arthritis can be treated through occupational or physical therapy, exercise, and over-the-counter pain relieving medication. Alternate medicine like Ayurveda, massages with medicinal oils and homeopathy also offer relief to some people in the early stages.
“Surgical options for the treatment of arthritis include arthroscopy, synovectomy, osteotomy, and total joint replacement. While the first three offer relief from pain, they cannot cure the condition. The only cure for arthritis is joint replacement surgery,” said Dr Nadkarni.
Lifestyle changes are important:
*Eat sensibly, control your weight, and exercise regularly — these are all mantras for keeping knee problems at bay. Apart from it:
*Maintain a healthy body weight.
*Keep injuries at bay.
*Pay attention to your posture, avoid high heels.
*Keep a regular tab on your vitamin B 12 and vitamin D 3 levels, the latter being slightly more important in case of arthritis.
*Eat good diet, include nuts and seeds like walnuts, cashew nuts, pistachios in your diet. Also include more vegetables such as garlic and onions into your diet.
*Consume rotis made of jowar, nachani, raagi and bajra. These are great for arthritis-ridden joints because they contain nutrients that help ease your pain.