'Air pollution may lead to arthritis'

'Air pollution may lead to arthritis'

Air pollution increases chances of suffering from arthritis, an AIIMS study has found. 

“Air pollution influences the autoimmunity of a person, which increases the chances of rheumatoid arthritis. Autoimmunity or self-destruction is a defence mechanism. This leads to damage of tissues, which in turn affects human organs like heart, intestine and lungs,” said Dr Uma Kumar, Professor, Rheumatology Department, AIIMS.

Data show that when the level of suspended particulate matter (SPM) rose above the accepted level in the atmosphere, the symptoms of arthritis were manifested more severely in patients.

The study is being conducted by the Rheumatology Department of AIIMS along with the Union Department of Science and Technology, with a sample size of 300 people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. The final data are awaited. 

“Environmental factor is playing a significant role in rheumatological disorders or muscoskeletal problems. Patients were studied over a period of time with change in atmospheric conditions to understand the pattern,” said Dr Kumar.

In the past nine months, the AIIMS rheumatology department has seen some 10,000 patients. This is at least a 10 per cent increase from last year’s data. 

Lack of trained hands

Hospitals in the city are grappling with lack of trained rheumatologists. Currently, there is only one rheumatologist in AIIMS assisted by two resident doctors.

“People should avoid unnecessary diagnostic services like X-rays, CT scans and MRIs as these lead to overexposure to radiation, which increases chances of cancer,” said Dr Kumar.

Different forms of arthritis like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and spondyloarthritis are the most common ailments observed across all age groups.