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Air pollution aggravates rheumatoid arthritis: AIIMS doctor

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 Rohit Shishodia
A study has indicated that poor air quality aggravates symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

It is known that air pollution causes heart attacks, hypertension, respiratory ailments, coronary artery diseases, diabetes and strokes but that it is also a major risk factor for auto immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus is not so well known.

“The pollution particles go through the airways and then enter the blood stream. After entering the blood, they alter some proteins in our body. As a result our body's and defense mechanism do not identify these proteins,” informs Dr Uma Kumar, Professor and HOD, Department of Rheumatology, Delhi-AIIMS.

“The body mechanism tries to oust these proteins. They are perceived as a foreign body and our body mechanism tries to kill them. In that process, there is formation of auto-antibodies which destroy our own body cells, particularly in joints, due to which there develops swelling in the joints,” says Dr Kumar.

“We have sufficient scientific evidence to claim that air pollution is a risk factor for autoimmune diseases. We conducted a study last year that revealed that poor air quality aggravated the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis,” adds Dr Kumar.

Dr Kumar reveals that autoimmune diseases affect around 13 per cent of the population in India while only around five thousand doctors are available across the country to treat these diseases.

She says that it is high time that policy makers should intervene to include rheumatic-musculo-skeletal diseases (RMSD) under non-communicable diseases.

There should be national programs on prevention and control of RMSD which incorporate awareness programs for public and training programs for health professionals. Every medical practitioner should be trained in the basic principles of diagnosis and management of MSK pain and disorders.

She says that delay in initiation of treatment results in joint deformity and irreversible organ damage. “Also, state of ongoing inflammation in the body leads to premature atherosclerosis, hypertension, coronary artery disease, cerebrovascular accidents, and reduces the lifespan of expected life expectancy by 10 years," explains Dr Kumar

Fever, mouth ulcer, hair and weight loss, infection, lack of hunger, lower back pain, diarrhea, intestinal diseases and throat problems are symptoms of arthritis. Good air quality, avoidance of repeated infections and injuries, healthy lifestyle such as controlling obesity, non-consumption of junk food, not smoking, and right way of sit can save us from autoimmune diseases. Leaning for too long while operating laptops in the lap causes back and wrist pain too.

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