Women and Osteoarthritis

Many health surveys reveal that Osteoarthritis has emerged as the most common ailment, even trouncing traditional heavy weights like AIDS, diabetes, cancer and hypertension. Osteoarthritis is marked by crunching bone sounds, severe pain in the joints and overall stiffness. It is a degenerative disease which can make us immobile. But unfortunately, awareness amongst Indians about this bone ailment is almost nil as compared to high profile diseases like cancer, AIDS, diabetes etc.

According to a report of the World Health Organization (WHO) nearly 70 million Indians are its victims. Osteoarthritis or Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD), a rheumatological disorder, occurs in women earlier, thought the prevalence of its among men and women is at par. The diagnosis is largely clinical.

The symptoms : Osteoarthritis may first appear without any symptoms in persons aged between 20 and 30. but its main symptoms such as pain and inflammation surface in middle age. According to medical experts, the ailment occurs equally in both sexes, after about 55 years, the incidence scalds up amongst women. However intriguingly, arthritis is not one disease with a common cause. There are different types of arthritis, each with its own cause. Whatever the case maybe, Osteoarthritis is caused by the wear-and-tear of joints.

The joints most commonly affected are the knees, spine, thumb and fingers. Hip Osteoarthritis is most common in the west while in India, knee Osteoarthritis is the commonest type. The symptoms may range from stiffness to swelling to lack of mobility, especially in large weight-bearing joints are impacted. In the spine, it results in back and neck pain and sciatica or arm pain. According to expert orthos sciatica pain is referred from the spine and can be mistaken to be arising form the knee. It usually travels along the back of the thigh and calves to the feet. A gradual progression pain is usually typical initial symptom. The pain may be localized to the knee or radiate widely. The pain increased with weight-bearing activity and mobility. There may even be anterior knee pain which worsens with prolonged sitting, climbing stairs, jumping, squatting or kneeling. Initially pain reduces with rest but as the disease progresses, pain may occur during rest and activity.

What we should do : As experts opine that osteoarthritis early symptoms can be joint aches after physical activity/exercise. In later stages joint pain may become persistent, along with morning stiffness and difficulty in climbing stairs and getting out of bed or sitting for long. Some may also hear a crunching feeling or the sound of bone rubbing against bone. In advanced stages the person may be confined to bed or move only with ambulatory support. But every often it is a mild problem. We can manage our life by taking some steps.

Gentle exercise helps : If hands are Osteoarthritis affected, dipping them in hot, briny water is good therapy. For mild pain or stiffness, doctors, prescribe us simple analgesics. However, for severe conditions normally surgery is suggested. It involves the replacement of the hip/knee with a new synthetic one made of titanium, metal and plastic. It makes a huge difference in reducing pain and increasing mobility.

- In order to reduce the changes of knee-Osteo, women, especially menopausal women must shed their weight.

- Generally, prolonged sitting which results in the weakening of muscles must be avoided. Particularly, men or women, who are in office jobs which involved limited physical movement must be on guard. The limited movement over a period of time may trigger knee stiffness and later stages, Osteoarthritis. Regular exercise nourishes the joint Cartilage and removes waste products from the joints. It further strengthens the muscles around joints and provides support to them. Stretching also helps maintain one's range of pain free motion. Some people, especially even among youth complain that certain activities (such as running) cause pain. Then they can switch over to less tenuous activities. In office, one should avoid sitting for hours at one place. Such people should stand up and pace up and down for few minutes. They should do it often in a day. So keep moving and get the circulation going. Besides these steps, control your weight by consuming less fatty foods and exercising regularly. Even before you are afflicted with Osteoarthritis, take all the precaution say the saying goes 'prevention is better than cure'.

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