Arthritis is one of the leading causes of disability in India. With the changing standards of living, increasingly sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy eating habits and increasing levels of obesity, the World Health Organisation (WHO) expects a steep rise in the prevalence of this debilitating ailment in the country. While diabetes and hypertension are the much talked about lifestyle diseases, the impact that various joint disorders can cause to a person’s quality of life has not been brought to the forefront till now.
Understanding Joint Inflammation
The area where two bones meet is referred to as a joint and is essential for mobility. Arthritis is the most prevalent form of joint disorders and results from various lifestyle and environmental conditions. It involves the breakdown of cartilage, which is the flexible connective tissue that protects joints, allowing bones to rub together resulting in pain and swelling.
Types of arthritis
There are over 100 types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is one of the most common types of arthritis, characterized by loss of bone quality and density. Osteoarthritis, which was once considered a disease of the elderly, has now become such a widespread health concern that the WHO has identified it as a priority health issue alongside other non-communicable diseases like diabetes, hypertension etc.
Another form of arthritis is Rheumatoid arthritis. It is a long term autoimmune disease that involves inflammation of joints and surrounding tissues. It can occur at any age and has been linked to pathological infections, genetic predisposition and hormonal imbalance.
Other forms of arthritis include Ankylosing spondylitis, Gonococcal arthritis, Gout, Psoriatic arthritis, Reactive arthritis (Reiter syndrome), Scleroderma and Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
The pain resulting from knee arthritis impacts an individual’s ability to move freely, in turn restricting the ability to undertake regular physical exercise and participate in any social activities that may require physical activity. If treatment is delayed, the pain and swelling can become so severe that it even restricts day to day activities like walking, climbing stairs and even standing.
Knee joint disorders like knee arthritis not only limits a person’s movements but can also lead to various comorbidities, like avascular necrosis (AVN) where blood supply to the bones is disrupted, leading to cellular death. The inability to move can also have an adverse impact on one’s psychological wellbeing.
Symptoms of Knee Osteoarthritis
- Stiffness of the knee joint leading to difficulties flexing the leg
- Knee joint pain or swelling especially after activities such as climbing stairs, kneeling etc or periods of inactivity
- Inability to walk long distances due to weakness of the knee
- Inability to stand for long periods of time
- A feeling of weakness in the knee, resulting in a "locking" or "buckling."
While certain genetic and environmental factors are not controllable factors, a person can reduce the probability of getting arthritis by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, exercising regularly to maintain flexible joints and eating a balanced diet. If one happens to be diagnosed with arthritis, it is still important to maintain a regular exercise regimen and supplement a balanced diet with nutrition supplements and vitamins. In some cases, physicians also prescribe symptom-modifying drugs.
However, once a person is diagnosed with arthritis, all these methods can only help in delaying disease progression. In the situation that knee pain begins to impact even day to day activities, patients should consider undergoing knee replacement surgery. Technological advancements have made knee replacement surgeries for arthritis one of the safest and most successful treatment options. Moreover, minimally invasive techniques only require a small incision which reduces blood loss and muscle damage and speed up the recovery process.
Since an osteoarthritic Knee joint can limit an individual from performing his/her daily activities or participating in various activities with his/her family, delayed treatment only results in increasing the number of missed opportunities to enjoy life’s little joys.