This Tuesday, on World Arthritis Day, the focus turned on a crucial causative factor for osteoarthritis, a factor easily remediable – obesity.

Genetics, orthopaedicians say, is the primary cause and Indians seem to have a genetic predisposition towards osteoarthritis. However, obesity and certain lifestyle patterns constitute complicating factors and injuries sustained over a period of time have a role to play too, explains Vijay Bose, orthopaedic surgeon, Apollo Hospitals.

Arthritis is a condition in which the joints are inflamed, thereby leading to pain, and restricted mobility. The diagnosis is mainly clinical, supported by an X-ray, says A.B.Govindaraj, consultant orthopaedic surgeon, Guest Hospital.

In India, the most affected joint is the knee. “I see at least 4-5 cases per day. The incidence in women is also high and most of them come in a fairly advanced stage of the disease,” says Dr. Bose.

Dr. Govindaraj adds that globally women have a higher incidence of osteoarthritis. “About 80 per cent of my patients with osteoarthritis are obese. Rapid, sudden weight gain is definite risk factor.”

The typical patient is in the 50's, obese to mildly obese, has a sedentary lifestyle. They only reach the doctor after all their home remedies and self-medication have failed.

The orthopaedician can help in many ways, depending on the severity of the disease. Good physiotherapy comes first, Dr. Bose explains. This helps strengthen the muscles to bear body weight.

Even after the onset of arthritis, regular knee strengthening exercises will prevent the accumulation of fluid in the joint. Some people are asked to use walking aids and are prescribed non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, according to Dr. Govindaraj.

Squatting and sitting on the floor are a strict no-no, but minimal climbing of stairs is okay. A single injection is now available to supplement the lubrication matter that drops because of the disease. Advanced cases will require surgical interventions .

With weight control playing such a key role, a good diet cannot be far behind. “There is no substitute for a healthy, balanced diet with the requisite micronutrient inputs,” says Dr. Bose.

More In: Chennai | Health | Sci-Tech