There is a significant rise in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients in the country. The autoimmune disease occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the joints.
RA is a chronic inflammatory disease which affects the joints of the hands, feet, wrists, elbows, knees and ankles.
Obesity in women and smoking among men hampers arthritis treatment.
Obesity hampers arthritis treatment because it is a pro-inflammatory state which increases the inflammatory mediator in an individual and directly affects the knees which need to bear the weight of a human body. Similarly, smoking isn’t good for any part of the body. The toxins released by smoking are again pro-inflammatory.
Patients with excessive RA pains are 50% smokers. Smoking increases the risk of RA.
Nicotine releases feel-good chemicals like dopamine, tricking the body into believing that there is less pain, till the feeling wears off. Smoking also hinders the treatment of RA by either affecting the way the body metabolises RA medications or by making the underlying disease more severe.
Epidemiology of RA:
RA causes a major impact on a patient’s quality of life and socio-economic productivity. RA affects about 1 per cent of the total population. Early morning stiffness of joints especially of small joints of hands and feet is a common symptom of RA. However, stiffness improves gradually during the day. Pain and swelling of joints follow gradually if left untreated and can lead to multi-organ dysfunction affecting the eyes, lungs, skin, and kidneys.
It’s unfortunate that a sizeable populace of patients affected visit Rheumatologists after being affected with deformities which are irreversible or causes a permanent lifelong liability. The considerable number of patients does not seek help from a specialist at an early stage. If help is taken from a specialist within 6 months of symptoms, the disease can be modified favourably with early remission from crippling symptoms and prevent joint damage.
Women are three times more likely to develop RA than men. This may be due to hormonal factors. A fascinating fact is that RA becomes quiet and goes into remission during pregnancy and can flare up post-delivery. RA mostly affects people between age groups of 30 and 60 years. The incidence increases after the age of 70 years.
Arthritis is going to be the biggest concern for youngsters in the future, because of their eating and living habits. The direct and indirect cost of arthritis treatment is expected to be a huge burden on society
Awareness levels for RA are still less, even in major cities of the country. Generally, smaller towns and villages have much lower awareness. It’s important especially to educate the General Practitioners so that they recognize the symptoms early. Perceptions that the drugs used in RA are much more toxic than the disease itself are wrong.
Every NGO has a social responsibility to conduct screening camps to pick up early arthritis cases for a better pain-free society.
Tips to Control RA:
A healthy diet will improve overall wellbeing and maintain a healthy weight. Ensure adequate intake of calories, protein, and calcium. Reduce intake of saturated fats. Eat more green leafy vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Omega3 found in fatty fish and salmon reduce inflammation.
Smoking is a known environmental factor which can cause aggressive disease. Gluten-free diet may be beneficial, however, there are not adequate trials to support this. Obesity is a pro-inflammatory condition and steps should be taken to maintain an adequate weight.
After the pain is controlled, patients should do regular exercise as this reduces the stiffness.
However, early treatment is the key to have a minimum impact on the disease in one’s life. The longer the disease remains untreated, the greater is the damage.
Golden period is the first three months of the onset of symptoms. Stop wasting time trying out alternative treatment therapies and diets and seek help from a Rheumatologist to prevent RA.
Concept of EAC Clinics:
The longer rheumatoid arthritis (RA) disease remains untreated, the greater is the damage. Early arthritis clinics (EAC) are a boon to near-total recovery of arthritis patients.
The concept of EAC clinics is very popular in Europe and in other developed nations. If such a concept is put into practice in India, that will go a long way in preventing the preventable and most of the complications of the disease. Patients with severe active RA may have weakness, fatigue and poor sleep, affecting their productivity at work, forcing them to take time off work frequently and leads to loss of pay and may cost them their job. Patients with controlled RA generally can work, exercise and be productive.