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Arthritis does not spare anyone

delhi Updated: Oct 09, 2009 23:46 IST
Jaya Shroff Bhalla
Jaya Shroff Bhalla
Hindustan Times
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Geethika Jain's (name changed) illness is as old as her 22-year-old son.

Soon after delivering her first child, the 42-year-old developed a pain in her joints. This was followed by swelling in her leg joints.

Both doctors and her family ignored these early symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis — chronic inflammation of the joints — blaming them on a difficult delivery.

It's an anutoimmune disease caused by the body's tissues mistakenly attacking their own immune system.

"After almost two years, when my joints started curving backwards, I consulted specialists who told me it was rheumatoid arthritis," she said.

"Back then there was little treatment and my condition deteriorated despite medical advice."

Now on steroids, she has been told there is no sure shot cure.

"There are excellent drugs available, but 20 years ago, there was very little we could offer," said Dr A.N. Malviya, consultant rheumatologist at Indian Spinal Injuries Centre.

If you thought that rheumatoid arthritis affects only the elderly, you are mistaken.

"Anyone can get this disease, which causes inflammation of the tissue around the joints and slowly affects other organs in the body, causing irreparable damage," Malviya said.

"Though it occurs more often in women, especially after childbirth, children and young adults can also get it," the doctor said.

At least 50 new arthritis patients between 14 and 40 years visit the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) every week.

"The commonest arthritis is rheumatoid, followed by ankylosing spondylitis and gouty arthritis," said Dr Uma Kumar, head of the department of rheumatoid arthritis, AIIMS.

"Rheumatoid arthritis is typically a progressive illness that has the potential to cause joint destruction and functional disability," said Dr Malviya, who is most often saddened at the fact that people approach orthopedicians for cure, when the ailment is of the joints and not bones.