Representational image of patient with heart ailment.
Representational image of patient with heart ailment.

People should not take arthritis-related ailments lightly as in some cases it can even lead to medical emergency situations like a heart attack or pulmonary infection, a top AIIMS doctor today said.

“In India, people have a very laid-back attitude regarding arthritis and they think it isn’t a big deal. There are 200 different types of arthritis and they must wise up and realise that arthritis could be a symptom of bigger diseases,” Head of Department of Rheumatology at AIIMS, Dr Uma Kumar said.

She was addressing reporters here on the eve of a public lecture on arthritis at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences campus.

“Arthritis can affect any part of the body or any organ, from head to toe. It can trigger heart attacks, stroke or trigger other medical emergency situations, so people should not take it lightly,” she said.

Kumar also said that a proposal is being mooted to declare arthritis as a non-communicable disease (NCD), absence of which is putting severe economic burden on its patients.

“Unlike other diseases for which a day or week is dedicated, not much awareness has been raised on arthritis. We do mark World Arthritis Day on October 12 but the area inĀ general lies neglected.

“Since it is not under NCDs list, there is no national programme for rheumatological illnesses, no comprehensive data on how many people are affected by them. Besides, patients cannot claim reimbursement or insurance, or avail train travel benefits that are enjoyed by people with disability,” she said.

Arthritis affects mostly elderly people but due to change in lifestyle and food habit the young population is also getting affected.

There are two most common types of arthritis –inflammatory arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis and non-inflammatory arthritis like osteoarthritis. Its common symptoms or signs are joint swelling, redness, difficulty in walking and morning stiffness of more than 30 minutes, she said.

“Obesity and smoking and sedentary lifestyle too are causing arthritis in people. Though there are no

epidemiological data available with us, based on recent estimates, 8-23 per cent of the total population is affected, by it, and even if one takes an average, it is nearly 17 per cent, which is still a big number,” Kumar said.

She said, for rheumatoid arthritis, women are 10 times more predisposed to be affected by it than men.

The AIIMS doctor said that people should not rush to surgeons but go to a physician or rheumatologist first, and only for want of optimum treatment, should they go for surgery. “It is be the last resort, when the situation becomes worst.”

“Also, pollution (especially PM2.5) could be cause though there is no long-term research to prove direct link,” she said.