In the outbreak of chikungunya, the mosquito-borne infection that is characterised by severe joint pain, this season, doctors have noted a significant rise in patients being diagnosed with chronic arthritis in multiple joints. What is more alarming is that the virus, in some cases, has resulted in autoimmune disease, where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the normal cells, according to doctors.
AIIMS officials told The Indian Express that each day doctors were seeing as many as 12 to 15 patients diagnosed with arthritis caused by the chikungunya virus.
As many as 70 per cent of these patients were diagnosed as suffering from chronic arthritis, the officials added. Also, in 7 to 8 per cent patients, the hospital saw the virus causing arthritis “mimicking” rheumatoid arthritis, the long lasting autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the joints, said the officials. AIIMS officials warned that lack of proper treatment for such patients may lead to “deformity”.
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Dr Uma Kumar, Head of Department, Department of Rheumatology, AIIMS, said, “Since there has been upsurge in cases of chikungunya, the Rheumatology OPD has seen an increase in the number of patients, who have complained of pain and stiffness in joints. We are witnessing 12 to 15 patients, per day in the OPD, where they have been tested positive for chikungunya and have debilitating joint paint. In 70 per cent of these cases, the patients have chronic arthritis and 7 per cent have arthritis mimicking rheumatoid arthritis.”
Dr Kumar added, “In some cases, due to the severity, it has also resulted in bone erosion. In some cases, inflammation of soft tissue has also taken place due to the arthritis caused by the chikungunya virus.”
Dr Kumar said, “We are also seeing patients in whom the chikungunya virus has aggravated pre-existing arthritis. Also, patients are coming with arthritis and it is resulting in unmasking of some other disease, which has not been manifested before. In these cases, right diagnosis is very crucial as it may also result in deformity.”
The capital has reported deaths of patients who tested positive for chikungunya, while also having existing heart or kidney-related complications.