Researchers from All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) looked into 500 patients with rheumatoid arthritis who lived in New Delhi, India, in the past 10 years. They found that the symptoms worsened in the months of November and December. This two-month period is characterized by high levels of suspended particulate matter (SPM) 2.5 in the atmosphere.
Particulate matter, also called particle pollution, is a term coined for mixed solid particles and liquid droplets suspended in the air. These particles include soot, smoke, dust and dirt that are dark enough to be seen by the naked eye.
“We collected data on air quality from the Indian Meteorological Department in New Delhi for the past few years and then tracked patients undergoing treatment for rheumatoid arthritis here at AIIMS,” said AIIMS’ Head of Department and Professor of Rheumatology Medicine Professor Uma Kumar. They found that patients showed increased symptoms when air pollutants increased.
In 2014, the World Health Organization conducted a study of 1,600 cities in 91 countries to see who had the highest yearly average of particulate matter 2.5 in the world. WHO found New Delhi has a PM 2.5 average of 153.
Health experts agree that rheumatological disorders are the most deforming of diseases and residents in India have limited knowledge about the disease. Around 18 million people in India suffer from some kind of rheumatic disease. Organ damage and joint deformity are two of worst case scenarios for patients whose illness are not treated in time.
Rheumatoid arthritis has no known cure. However, symptom management techniques such as therapy and medication can lower inflammation and prevent joint damage. Exercise has been known to relieve arthritis symptoms. Keeping active lifestyle releases the happy hormones called endorphins, also known as ‘natural pain relievers’. Regular exercise has been known to ward off depression and keep the joints from stiffening. A healthy diet composed of foods that do not trigger inflammation can also help.
Urban living and lifestyle greatly contribute to the rise of arthritis patients annually. The lack of awareness and delayed treatment increase chances of worst case scenarios for patients with arthritis, some cases even result in early death. Symptoms of this autoimmune disorder include joint stiffness and pain, unexplained weight loss, fever and a significant decrease in appetite. Early detection plays a key role in symptom management.