Arthritis can strike at any age: Experts dispel a myth
Dubai - 20 per cent of the UAE population suffer from the condition.
Only older people get it and it's the cold weather that causes it. These are just some of the myths associated with arthritis. But as residents in the UAE prepare to 'Walk for Arthritis' on Friday, we set the story straight on this debilitating condition and why diagnoses numbers are rising here.
With more than 100 types of arthritis out there, a 2016 UAE study showed that 20 per cent of the population suffer from the condition.
Speaking to Khaleej Times, Dr Humeira Badsha, consultant rheumatologist and board member of Middle East Arthritis Foundation, said these numbers have not changed in the last two years.
"(Recent) studies, however, do indicate that patients in this region are being diagnosed at a younger age as compared to western populations," she said.
But why? Better education. "This is mainly because of increased awareness and understanding that autoimmune diseases can affect young people as much as the old. In the past, it was thought that arthritis only affected older people and hence, younger people did not get diagnosed easily."
Before, studies reported a delay in diagnosis of 12 months in the UAE. But now that early diagnosis is happening, treatment deformity and disability can be prevented.
There is no doubt different age groups and genders are being affe-cted by arthritis nowadays, and Dr Badsha said this mentality of clubbing all arthritis conditions in the same basket needs to stop.
"Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly can help prevent the likes of osteoarthritis. But juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is often caused by a genetic predisposition rather than a lack of exercise or poor diet. In this case, it cannot really be prevented, however, a lot can be done to reduce the impact."
She said it is more difficult to prevent autoimmune arthritis as it is caused by a complex interaction bet-ween genes and the environment. However, normal vitamin D levels are helpful in the prevention of them.
In addition, maintaining healthy oral and dental hygiene is helpful too, as bacteria in the mouth can predispose to autoimmune diseases.
"A lot of growing evidence proves that a healthy gut microbiome (intestinal bacteria) plays a critical role in the prevention of autoimmune diseases. "And of course, regular exercise is one of the best methods to keep joints from gett-ing stiff and relieving pain."