Risk factors include specific occupations, repetitive knee bending or lifting heavy weights, and family history of osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis, known as a ‘disease’ of the elderly, affecting those over 65, is now also seen in younger people aged between 35 and 55.
Doctors, who are seeing a large number of such cases, particularly in women over 40, say old age, growing obesity, sedentary lifestyle, eating unhealthy food, and Vitamin D deficiency are the main risk factors.
Following this year’s World Arthritis Day, which was observed on October 12 with the theme Move to Improve, doctors are focussing on creating awareness about osteoarthritis in younger patients.
Osteoarthritis, which is the most prevalent form of arthritis and the leading cause of disability in India, affects over 15 million Indians each year, they say.
What is osteoarthritis?
Sharan S. Patil, chairperson and chief orthopaedist of Sparsh Hospital, says osteoarthritis is a condition in which inflammation results in pain in the joints.
“It is not a disease but a fallout of the wear and tear of the joints. It is caused when the soft cartilage that covers and acts as a cushion inside the joints wears out mostly affecting knee and hip joints,” he says.
Women are more vulnerable to the condition.
Other risk factors include specific occupations, repetitive knee bending or lifting heavy weights, and family history of osteoarthritis.
Patients with osteoarthritis of the knee should take up low-impact aerobic fitness exercises and quadriceps.
“They should avoid exertion, jumping and jerky movements, squatting on the floor, using Indian toilet and walking on uneven surfaces,” Dr. Patil says.
Pointing out that incidence is high in rural areas and tier II cities compared to urban areas, he says the government should create awareness through health activists.
Hemanth Kalyan, head of the Department of Sports Medicine in Manipal Hospital, says osteoarthritis of the knee generally presents as painful knee with stiffness and swelling followed by deformity.
“It is very common for knee osteoarthritis patients to ignore early symptoms and seek an expert’s opinion only when the condition reaches its worst form. With an increasing number of young people reporting the condition, it is important for them to seek timely medical help so that they get adequate pain relief and lead a better life,” Dr. Kalyan says.
Both doctors say people with a family history of arthritis should maintain good muscle tone.
Making changes in lifestyle such as reducing weight by dietary modification, exercise and activity modification can help in managing knee joint pain, they add.