Since 1996, World Arthritis Day on October 12th has unified people of all ages, races, and genders to raise awareness of rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases. This year’s theme, “Don’t Delay, Connect Today,” aims to highlight the importance of early diagnosis of Rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases.
Arthritis means joint inflammation, but the term is used to describe around 200 conditions that affect joints, the tissues that surround the joint, and other connective tissue. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis. Arthritis is more common among adults aged 65 years or older, but it can affect people of all ages, including children. Treatment for arthritis aims to control pain, minimize joint damage, and improve or maintain function and quality of life.A range of medications and lifestyle strategies can help achieve this and protect joints from further damage.
Non-inflammatory types of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis, are often treated with pain-reducing medications, physical activity, weight loss if the person is overweight, and self-management education.
These treatments are also applied to inflammatory types of arthritis, such as RA, along with anti-inflammatory medications such as corticosteroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), and a relatively new class of drugs known as biologics.
A healthful, balanced diet with appropriate exercise, avoiding smoking, and not drinking excess alcohol can help people with arthritis maintain their overall health.
There is no specific diet that treats arthritis, but some types of food may help reduce inflammation which includes,
- Nuts and Seeds
- Fruits and vegetables
- Olive oil
- Whole grains
Foods to avoid
There are some foods that people with arthritis may want to avoid. Nightshade vegetables, such as tomatoes, contain a chemical called solanine that some studies have linked with arthritis pain. Research findings are mixed when it comes to these vegetables, but some people have reported a reduction in arthritis symptoms when avoiding nightshade vegetables.
- Staying physically active.
- Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.
- Getting regular check-ups with the doctor.
- Protecting joints from unnecessary stress.
Seven habits that can help a person with arthritis to manage their condition are:
- Being organized: Keep track of symptoms, pain levels, medications, and possible side effects for consultations with your doctor.
- Managing pain and fatigue: A medication regimen can be combined with non-medical pain management. Learning to manage fatigue is key to living comfortably with arthritis.
- Staying active: Exercise is beneficial for managing arthritis and overall health.
- Balancing activity with rest: In addition to remaining active, rest is equally important when your disease is active.
- Eating a healthful diet: A balanced diet can help you achieve a healthy weight and control inflammation. Avoid refined, processed foods and pro-inflammatory animal-derived foods and choose whole plant foods that are high in antioxidants and that have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Improving sleep: Poor sleep can aggravate arthritis pain and fatigue. Take steps to improve sleep hygiene so you find it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. Avoid caffeine and strenuous exercise in the evenings and restrict screen-time just before sleeping.
- Caring for joints: Tips for protecting joints include using the stronger, larger joints as levers when opening doors, using several joints to spread the weight of an object such as using a backpack and gripping as loosely as possible by using padded handles.
Do not sit in the same position for long periods. Take regular breaks to keep mobile.
- Warm water therapy: Exercises in a warm-water pool. The water supports weight and puts less pressure on the muscles and joints.
- Physical therapy: Specific exercises tailored to the condition and individual needs, sometimes combined with pain-relieving treatments such as ice or hot packs and massage.
- Occupational therapy: Practical advice on managing everyday tasks, choosing specialized aids and equipment, protecting the joints from further damage and managing fatigue.
Joint-friendly physical activities that are appropriate for adults with arthritis and heart disease include:
There is no single cause of all types of arthritis. The cause or causes vary according to the type or form of arthritis. Possible causes may include:
- Injury, leading to degenerative arthritis.
- Abnormal metabolism, leading to gout and pseudogout.
- Inheritance, such as in osteoarthritis.
- Infections, such as in the arthritis of Lyme disease.
- Immune system dysfunction, such as in RA and SLE.
Most types of arthritis are linked to a combination of factors, but some have no obvious cause and appear to be unpredictable in their emergence.
Some people may be genetically more likely to develop certain arthritic conditions. Additional factors, such as previous injury, infection, smoking and physically demanding occupations, can interact with genes to further increase the risk of arthritis.
Diet and nutrition can play a role in managing arthritis and the risk of arthritis, although specific foods, food sensitivities or intolerances are not known to cause arthritis.
Foods that increase inflammation, particularly animal-derived foods and diets high in refined sugar, can make symptoms worse, as can eating foods that provoke an immune system response.
Gout is one type of arthritis that is closely linked to diet, as it is caused by elevated levels of uric acid which can be a result of a diet high in purines.
Diets that contain high-purine foods, such as seafood, red wine, and meats, can trigger a gout flare-up. Vegetables and other plant foods that contain high levels of purines do not appear to exacerbate gout symptoms, however.
Risk factors for arthritis
Certain risk factors have been associated with arthritis. Some of these are modifiable while others are not.
Non-modifiable arthritis risk factors:
- Age: the risk of developing most types of arthritis increases with age.
- Sex: most types of arthritis are more common in females, and 60 percent of all people with arthritis are female. Gout is more common in males than females.
- Genetic factors: specific genes are associated with a higher risk of certain types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and ankylosing spondylitis.
Modifiable arthritis risk factors:
- Overweight and obesity: excess weight can contribute to both the onset and progression of knee osteoarthritis.
- Joint injuries: damage to a joint can contribute to the development of osteoarthritis in that joint.
- Infection: many microbial agents can infect joints and trigger the development of various forms of arthritis.
- Occupation: certain occupations that involve repetitive knee bending and squatting are associated with osteoarthritis of the knee.
Dr. Vignesh Mathialagan
Dr. Mehta’s Hospitals.