New Delhi, October 12: As you age, the degeneration in joints of your body is inevitable despite your best efforts to keep them well oiled. You cannot avert it. Sooner or later, you have to confront the age triggered osteoarthritis and the resulting joint pain. But you can and should stop rheumatic arthritis from aging. And if you do not, it is going to be a double whammy in your old age.
In India, according to orthopaedics, people let rheumatoid arthritis go undiagnosed till it is too late. In old age, the mix of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis assumes very painful proportions, which is not easy for doctors to tackle at all.
Dr. Raju Vaishya, Orthopaedic Surgeon in Delhi’s Indraprastha Apollo, says – Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis combine to make life hell in old age. So, treatment in time is a must for containing rheumatoid arthritis. It becomes all the more imperative to manage it because it is not only a joints debilitating disorder but it also impacts badly other vital organs like heart, liver, kidney et al. If left untreated, rheumatoid arthritis reduces the life span by 10 to 15 years.’
Dr. Vaishya further says, ‘it strikes 4 or five times more in women than it does men. Commonest age when people are inflicted by this is between 30 and 50. The joints which are most likely to be affected by rheumatoid arthritis are those of hands and wrists, then in order foot, hip, knee, elbow and finally that of spine.’
Dr. Aashish Chaudhry, a renowned Orthopaedic Surgeon and Managing Director, Aakash Healthcare, says, ‘we can well avoid this terrible prospect of double whammy in old age, provided we avoid letting rheumatoid arthritis fester. What people normally in India do is they resort to self medication for just alleviating joint pains and do not take pains to get it diagnosed by orthopaedic doctors. They let it go undiagnosed for years together and consult doctor only when pain becomes unbearable and fingers of hands and knee get badly deformed. It is a nightmarish prospect really’ Rheumatoid arthritis is a kind of autoimmune disease in joints. It starts from finger joints. All pain in finger joints is not necessarily rheumatoid arthritis. There is an assortment of symptoms that point to the possibility of Rheumatoid arthritis.
Dr. Chaudhry says, ‘if pain and inflammation in fingers of both hands stay for many weeks along with experience of morning stiffness in fingers lasting over 35 minutes, there are high chances of Rheumatoid arthritis. Though rheumatoid arthritis is not curable but it can be effectively controlled and managed like we do any other chronic and non curable disease like diabetes.’
He further says, ‘Just do not resort to pain killers for relief. There are specific medicines to manage rheumatoid arthritis. But if this disease is left to worsen for long, treatment gets increasingly difficult, so catching this disease young is the right way to avert this situation. Big number of people comes to doctors for treatment of this arthritis but what we see is just the tip of the iceberg because this arthritis is highly underreported. Rheumatoid arthritis most commonly affects the joints of the hands, feet, wrists, elbows, knees and ankles.’
For patients of rheumatoid arthritis, temptation of cure is very high and that is where most people err. They turn to alternative medicines like homeopathy, because their practitioners wrongly flaunt that they can eradicate the disease. This temptation has been found to be reason of worsening of the disease in many patients.
Dr. Chaudhry says, ‘I daily meet patients who had come to me for treatment a couple of years ago but strayed to alternative medicine after few months. When disease worsens, they finally return to modern medicine. Regular follow up is also a must for limiting dose of medicine.’ Dr. Chaudhry further says, ‘the disease has more genetic component coupled with some extraneous factors.’
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the joints resulting in inflammation that causes the tissue that lines the inside of joints to thicken. As result of this thickening, swelling and pain in and around the joints occur. If inflammation goes unchecked, it can damage cartilage, the elastic tissue that covers the ends of bones in a joint, as well as the bones themselves. Ultimately it leads to even loss of cartilage. In women, it occurs earlier than in men. Having a family member with RA increases the odds of having RA.