With age, constant wear-and-tear leads to arthritis; at least 50 per cent patients come in too late, say doctors

Does an intense pain hold back your knees from taking the first step of a flight of stairs? And does an evening walk with your granddaughter end up in you inching your way back home?

As you grow old, your knees age too. Constant wear-and-tear leaves you with arthritis, affecting normal life with even walking or standing becoming difficult.

“Arthritis has three stages. The person will have mild pain, on-and-off swelling, difficulty in walking long distances and climbing stairs. He/she should avoid climbing stairs and squatting on the floor. Regular exercise will help,” says Arumugam S., consultant orthopaedic and joint replacement surgeon, Bharathiraja Speciality Hospital.

If neglected, the condition progresses, causing mild deformity and severe pain. The person walks much lesser, experiencing a grinding noise while walking. The soft cartilage covering the two bones in the joint wears off, causing excruciating pain. Joint-replacement surgery becomes the only option, Dr. Arumugam adds.

“At least 50 per cent patients come in very late with plenty of deformity in the knee joint. They try alternative therapies and oil massage. It is better to come early,” says N. Deen Mohamed Ismail, director in-charge, Institute of Orthopaedics, Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital.

Dr. Arumugam says awareness is increasing but patients fear they may not be able to walk after surgery. “They can definitely walk. The aim is to make them walk pain-free.”

N.V. Shanthi, a school teacher, underwent bilateral joint replacement in 2010 at the age of 63. “My knees are doing well since then. It is important to follow the physiotherapy routine,” she says.

Students spend anywhere between 800 and 1,200 hours of a year at school. What happens if the school does not provide the most basic of facilities — a hygienic and usable toilet with clean running water and soap?

“Learning, hygiene and health are interlinked”, states Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in School, a UNICEF publication. “There is a direct link between diarrhoea and hygiene in schools.”

V. Divya, a student of a government school in the city, complains of unclean toilets, missing latches, irregular water supply and unhygienic disposal of sanitary pads. “Many girls refuse to use the toilets at school. Some do not drink much water due to this,” she said.

According to a report by the ministry of human resource development, only 72 per cent of schools in Tamil Nadu had toilets for girls in 2012-13.

N. Rajamaheswari, urogynecologist, says, “Girls need to be told and guided to manage menstruation at school from a hygiene point of view.”

Experts also stress the importance of hand-washing. However, how many city schools provide soap for use by its students?

(Reporting by Serena Josephine M. and Asha Sridhar)

Keywords: knee pain

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