Many people associate obesity with heart health or diabetes. Obesity poses many health risks and not many people would know that obese people can also get certain type of arthritis. In fact, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention states that when it comes to obese people, 1 in 3 have reported case of arthritis in the United States and obesity is a serious disorder in America today, affecting 2 out 3 Americans.
Arthritis is commonly characterized by arthritis joint pain or inflammation of the joints. There are many types of arthritis that can induce stiffness, swelling and pain. Arthritis manifests in many forms (over 100 conditions), but osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis that affects older adults. There is no cure for arthritis and the disease can lead to progressive stiffness over time. However, arthritis can be effectively prevented.
Obesity and arthritis
Obesity can worsen the disease and obese people are at a higher risk of developing arthritis. Obesity affects arthritis in two ways; overweight or obesity exerts too much pressure on the joint areas that bear the weight of the body, such as knees, spine and hips, and fat cells trigger inflammation by producing certain chemicals.
Leptin associated with obesity is known to cause inflammation of the knee joints.
Every pound of extra weight means approximately 4 pounds of extra pressure on the joints and such extra pressure on the joints in knee, spine or hip area will ultimately lead to damage and inflammation.
In patients with arthritis, weight gain can cause the disease to worsen.
In case of hand osteoarthritis, fat cells produce chemicals that increase inflammation. The chemicals damage the joints faster leading to pain and swelling.
Gout is known to be the extremely painful form of arthritis. Patients with gout often suffer from limitations when it comes to an active lifestyle. As per a recent research reports, approximately 8.3 million Americans are suffering from gout and the disease percentage has nearly doubled in the last two decades.
- Gout is caused by the deposit of crystallized uric acid into the joints and a large percentage of uric acid in the body.
- Many of the gout patients also suffer from kidney stones.
- There are medical evidence to suggest that gout is strongly linked with metabolic syndrome wherein visceral fat and insulin resistance coupled with high blood pressure is known to trigger the inflammation of the joints.
- Uric acid is generally filtered by the kidney and passed out of the body through urine in a healthy person. However, when the kidneys fail to filter out uric acid or the production of uric acid is increased in the body, a large amount of uric acid deposits can be found in the blood.
- Insulin one of the health concerns of obese people is known to inhibit the uric acid excretion.
- The uric acid deposits in the joints and gout can manifest first in the big toe and it can also spread to the other joints leaving the patient severely affected with pain.
- There are studies that suggest that majority of the people that are overweight and obese (around 70% and 14% respectively) suffer from gout.
Rheumatoid arthritis is found to be affecting 1.5 million people in the United States. An autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation in almost all parts of the body. The disease leaves the patient with extreme pain and joints erosion.
- Chemicals known as cytokines produced in the fat cells cause inflammation in many parts of the body. They attack various systems in the body like musculoskeletal system, cardiovascular system etc.
- Adipokines is one such group that promote inflammation in the body in rheumatoid arthritis.
- Though adiponectin- a type of adipokines is good for the heart due to its anti-inflammatory effect especially on blood vessels, it invariably causes joint inflammation. And though obese people produce less adiponectin, they are still at greater risk of developing joint inflammation.
- Aside from adipokines, fat cells also produce tumor necrosis factor-alpha also known as TNF-alpha, and interleukin-1. These groups of chemicals are seen to be extremely active in rheumatoid arthritis and trigger inflammation.
- The risk of heart disorders is high in rheumatoid arthritis and it is important watch out obesity so that heart health is maintained.
30% of the psoriasis patients may develop psoriatic arthritis and it is an autoimmune disease characterized by scaly and inflamed dermal layer.
- Psoriasis patients are found to be having higher levels of leptin- obesity-related hormone.
- Researchers are still trying to pin down the exact mechanism that leads to psoriatic arthritis. However, the metabolic changes that occur in an obese person where fat cells produce cytokines and other inflammation triggering chemicals are being studied to know the causes.
Lupus is another serious type of autoimmune disease where the immune system of the body fights its own organs and tissues.
- Patients with lupus especially women are at a higher risk of developing obesity.
- The relation between obesity and cardiovascular diseases are still being researched in lupus patients.
- Obese lupus patients are also found to develop cognitive impairment.
- Fat cells that produce cytokines are the main reasons for the inflammation of the joints.
- Majority of the patients (around 80%) with fibromyalgia are found to be obese.
- 3 out of 6 Americans are suffering from fibromyalgia.
- Fibromyalgia and obesity are found to alter the HPA axis where the communication between the glands is disrupted causing pain and swelling in the body.
- Obesity can also lead to inflamed joints with painful swellings.
Body fat or obesity can affect different types of arthritis in various ways. Often patients are caught in the vicious cycle of painful arthritis joint inflammation, limited active lifestyle and obesity. Some autoimmune diseases like lupus or fibromyalgia are also known to cause obesity and hence the joint inflammation and in other cases, obese people are at higher risk of developing numerous types of arthritis.