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Arthritis: A Degenerative Condition

Dr Jayateerth W Kulkarni 

Arthritis is a degenerative condition causing wear of the articulating surfaces, resulting in pain at rest, pain with movements, restriction of movements and in severe cases, deformity.
Arthritis and its types
The most common type is osteoarthritis, which is wear and tear associated with ageing. It can be accelerated, or aggravated, or even caused by trauma, excess body weight, obesity, mal–alignment of the joints or congenital joint deformities (dysplasia).

The other common type of arthritis is called rheumatoid arthritis. In this disease, the immune system of the body reacts against the joints and musculoskeletal tissues. This causes inflammation of joints, and leads to wear and tear.

The other types of inflammatory arthritis are: aukylosing spondylarthropathy, Lyme disease, gouty arthritis, arthritis associated with connective tissue disease, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, etc.

Can arthritis be stopped or reversed?

Once wear and tear has been established, arthritis progresses relentlessly.
There is no way to stop or reverse arthritis. Certain factors like weight reduction, activity modification, correcting mal-alignment, control of inflammation by anti-inflammatory or disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs etc. may control wear and tear, but cannot reverse it.

Certain nutritional supplements like chondroitin sulphate and glucosamine and other medications like methyl-sulphonyl methane, esterified fatty acids and diacerin have been shown to have some beneficial effect on arthritis, but cannot completely cure arthritis, or reverse the wear and tear process. These are beneficial in early stages of arthritis, and need to be taken for 3-12 months. They are not beneficial in advanced arthritis, and neither have they any role in inflammatory arthritis.

Currently, tissue culture and genetic engineering are being applied to find a cure for arthritis, but till date, there is no universally successful technique that has effective clinical applicability.
Dr Jayateerth W Kulkarni is Senior Consultant Orthopedic Surgeon, Apollo Hospitals, Bangalore.

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