World Arthritis Day: Medics in UAE see increase in arthritis cases amid pandemic
The Mediterranean diet appears to be beneficial to prevent the onset and even avoiding osteoarthritis.
Cases of osteoarthritis and various other forms of joint pains have gone up during Covid-19 times due to lack of physical activity, according to doctors.
"One of the most common complaints we are getting now are chronic cases of joint pains. We are seeing more osteorporotic bones compared to a decade ago and this mainly has to do with bad lifestyle, bad postures, less physical activity due to Covid-19. The more active the person the better bone quality and it makes a huge difference as we grow older. If your bones get lazy, then will weaken. Therefore, have a good diet, good exposure to sun, exercise and stay active because one of the best stimulators for bones is physical activity," said Dr Ahmed Shukri Issa, specialist orthopeadic surgeon at Adam Vital Hospital.
The Mediterranean diet appears to be beneficial to prevent the onset and even avoiding osteoarthritis, said Dr Mohanad Qahwash, consultant orthopedic and trauma surgery at Canadian Specialist Hospital. "According to a study conducted by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, focused on the link between diet in general and Mediterranean diet specifically, participants with a higher adherence to Mediterranean diet had a significantly lower prevalence of knee osteoarthritis compared to those with lower adherence. Also higher use of cereals was associated with lower odds of having knee osteoarthritis. On the other hand, decreased physical activity and the consumption of a high-fat western diet accelerates progression of osteoarthritis and related cartilage degeneration."
Arthritis affects millions of people worldwide and one in five people in the UAE. With such a significant number of people affected it is imperative that preventative measures are taken as well as awareness campaigns are launched.
Not many people yet know that the most common musculoskeletal conditions with the greatest impact on society are rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, spondyloarthritis, low back pain, osteoporosis, and limb trauma. These conditions are a leading cause of absence from work, reasons for disability pensions, and account for 20 per cent of health utilisation costs.
A study that enrolled Emiratis attending Dubai Primary Health care centres has shown that lower back pain and knee osteoarthritis were the most common musculoskeletal diseases with a prevalence of 33 per cent and 26 per cent respectively. The most common musculoskeletal conditions with the greatest impact on society are rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, spondylarthritis.
In the UAE alone, studies have shown a delay in diagnosis of 12 months due to lack of awareness of the disease. With early diagnosis, treatment deformity and disability can be prevented.
Dr Humeira Badsha, consultant rheumatologist and board member of Middle East Arthritis Foundation, said: "Arthritis is surrounded by many misconceptions, one of them being that it affects only the elderly, which is far from true. Children as young as six months can suffer from arthritis. The lack of awareness about the disease is the first thing we need to overcome as a community. Unfortunately, not many people are aware of symptoms yet, therefore diagnosis and treatment get delayed."
"Another challenge in treating patients with arthritis is access to rheumatologists which is again due to lack of awareness. For any bone or joint pain, a patient generally goes to a GP for treatment, instead of a rheumatologist, thereby delaying diagnosis and treatment," she added.
Some tips to spot the disease early on:
>Early morning joint stiffness, swelling, or pain
>Spiking fever that often increases in the evenings and then may suddenly drop to normal
>Salmon-coloured skin rash that accompanies the fever spikes and disappears quickly afterwards
Tips to prevent arthritis
>Maintain a healthy body weight and body mass index. Research has shown that every kilo increase in body weight above normal, increases the stress on knees by 5kg
>Consume enough calcium. An adult needs 1,000mg of calcium daily and a post-menopausal woman needs 1,500mg calcium. One glass (200 ml) of milk contains about 300mg of calcium.
>Get enough Vitamin D. The daily requirement is 1000IU. This is usually obtained by exposure in the sun - about 15 minutes per day for very light skinned people. More pigmented skins may find it hard to absorb the vitamin D and you may require a supplement or fortified foods.
>Exercise daily or at least three to four times per week. A combination of aerobic activities and strength training is needed.
>Quit smoking. Research has shown that smoking can increase your risk of rheumatoid arthritis by up to 20 fold.
>Pay attention to your body. Do not ignore aches, pains, joint swelling or stiffness. See a rheumatologist promptly if you have these symptoms.
>Eat fish. Omega oils in certain types of fish and walnuts help prevent arthritis.
>Watch your food. There are beneficial anti-inflammatory properties in ginger, turmeric avocado. Limit consumption of excess red meats and alcohol.
>Stretch. Stretching before exercise and regularly during the day prevents muscle strain and repetitive stress injuries.
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