Arthritis gets younger: One in every four patients less than 40 years old and often overweight


New Delhi: Arthritis is not an affliction that plagues you in old age, as a survey in five Delhi hospitals — three state-run and two private — found recently. In fact, one in every four osteoarthritis patients turned out to be less than 40 years old and often overweight.

The survey, held over the past six months in Veer Savarkar, Hedgewar, Jagpravesh, RK and Malik Medix Hospitals, had orthopaedic surgeons reporting 600 patients with knee pain. Of the, 26% were in their thirties and the rest above the age of 40. The orthopaedic surgeons disclosed that while most of the patients under 40 had mild to moderate arthritis, 25% of them complained of severe symptoms, for example difficulty walking for 10 minutes. Their x-rays revealed marked narrowing of the knee joint space, Dr Sushil Sharma, who led the research team, said.

The increased incidence of obesity, the researchers found, was the leading cause of osteoarthritis in the younger adults. “In our hospital, we found the younger patients were overweight women,” Dr Arvind Kumar, one of the researchers from east Delhi’s Hedgewar Hospital, told TOI. “They were from the poorer socio-economic group and had taken to alternative therapies for pain relief. Some of the medicines they used contained steroids.”

A history of knee injury and arthritis in the family, other known factors for osteoarthritis in the young, were seen in less than a fifth of the patients considered in the survey.
Dr Sharma, who is chairman of the Arthritis Foundation of India, said that if patients approached hospitals early when the symptoms were mild to moderate, medical intervention and lifestyle changes could help. In severe cases, however, surgical intervention would be required. “At least a tenth of those with a severe form of osteoarthritis will require partial or total joint replacement in the five years that follow,” he said.
Dr Deepak Choudhary, director of Safdarjung Sports Injury Centre, pointed out that the knee and hip are the two main weight-bearing joints of the body. “The risk of wear and tear of these joints increases if the person is overweight. If steps are not taken to prevent obesity, more patients in the younger age group may be affected by arthritis,” Choudhary warned.

Orthopaedic surgeons stress on the need to create awareness about arthritis so that patients can approach them in time. They advise those unaffected to maintain a healthy lifestyle to keep the crippling affliction at bay. “Degeneration of joints starts in the 20s. But the symptoms have to be significant enough to declare that a case of arthritis. Also, not all patients coming with knee pain require medical or surgical intervention. Simple lifestyle changes such as weight reduction and exercises can help,” Dr Ashok Rajgopal, chairman of Fortis Bone and Joint Institute, said.

Courtesy: Durgesh Nandan Jha, The Times of India