Pope Francis canceled his trip to Africa due to health issues – he was due to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan in early July. Last week, the Vatican announced that the reason for the postponement, with no date for returning to the continent, is a disease that the 85-year-old pontiff has in his knee: osteoarthritis.
- Study shows growth in the number of osteoarthritis cases worldwide
“I’m sorry to have to postpone this trip, which I’m still very much looking forward to doing,” Francis said in his Sunday speech in front of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square.
“I ask you to forgive me for this. Let us pray together that, with God’s help and medical treatment, I can reach you as soon as possible. We are hopeful,” he added.
Pope appears in wheelchair
Osteoarthritis is also called osteoarthritis, osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease, according to the Brazilian Society of Rheumatology (SBR).
It is a condition characterized by wear and tear of joint cartilage and changes in bones, among them, the osteophytes, known as “parrot beaks”.
Among rheumatisms — a set of more than 200 diseases that affect joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons — osteoarthritis is the most frequent and represents about 30% to 40% of consultations in rheumatology clinics.
“Its importance can be demonstrated through social security data in Brazil, as it is responsible for 7.5% of all absences from work; it is the second disease among those that justify initial assistance, with 7.5% of the total ; it is also the second in relation to sickness benefit (in extension) with 10.5%; it is the fourth to determine retirement (6.2%)”, points out the SBR.
The Syrian Benevolent Association – Hcor explains that the main cause is aging.
It is common for patients to have no family history of the condition, but after age 50, due to natural wear and tear, they develop osteoarthritis. In addition, there are also other possible causes:
- activities that may overload one or more joints;
- frequent movement sports such as soccer and tennis;
- lack of muscle strength, especially in the legs;
- excess activities that require repetitive movements, such as kneeling and getting up;
- trauma, such as falls, sprains or blows;
- family history.
According to Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, osteoarthritis has no cure. However, there are resources available to slow the progression of the disease and increase the quality of life.
- Conventional treatment: combines medications (analgesics and anti-inflammatory) and physical therapy.
“In the initial phase, arthroscopy can also be an ally. With the help of a microcamera and appropriate instruments, this minimally invasive surgical technique allows treating a series of joint injuries, such as those of the meniscus, and removing fragments that come off the cartilaginous tissue in the arthrosis process”, explains the hospital.
- New treatments: there is also the prescription of herbal medicines with anti-inflammatory action. According to Einstein, products of plant origin cause less impact on the stomach and kidneys.
In addition, the implantation of cartilage cells extracted from the patient and grown in the laboratory is under development, according to Einstein, and the transplantation of cartilage taken from cadavers. For the time being, these are procedures in the testing and research phase.