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I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis when I was a teen.

By TOM MWIRARIAbrMy name is Beth Njoroge and I am 27 years old. I have been living with osteoarthritis for eight years.

It is a condition where the protective cartilage on the ends of bones wears down over time and causes friction and pain.Walking, sitting, standing and sometimes showering is difficult.

I cannot count the number of times I've curled up on the couch because of the brutal pain.FIRST SYMPTOMSI was 17 when I started feeling the sensation of needles painfully pricking my knees.

I thought it was a side effect of too much dancing.But the pain increased in intensity and frequency.

At first the pain was in one knee at a time, then it moved to pain in both knees once or twice a month. Later, the pain came three times in a week and also spread to other joints.

I struggled to move my wrists and my toes became crooked.I suffered silently not wanting to reveal my troubles to anyone, and I had difficulty concentrating in class.

My grades nosedived I scored a B+ in my KCSE exam and missed the opportunity to pursue my dream career in Aeronautical Engineering.In 2010 I joined United States International University (USIU) for BA International Relations.

In the final semester, we travelled to Arusha. On the eve of our return, my friends and I explored the city's night life and we danced.

The next morning I was unable to climb out of bed as my knees were swollen. It took me about 30 minutes to unfold each leg and I was carried to the bus.

Waves of heat coursed through my knees and I felt like I was being pricked by many needles.Beth Njoroge does moderate exercises at a gym.

PHOTO | TOM MWIRARIAAt the campus dispensary, the doctor prescribed painkillers and some other medicine but after completing the dose, the pain crept back. I went back to the doctor who inquired if there was anyone in my family with arthritis.

I nervously revealed that my father has psoriatic arthritisan autoimmune condition that affects the skin and his joints also swell and stiffen. I often see him clench his jaws from the pain and he moves with difficulty.

I visited a hospital and I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. The news hit me hard and I went to the corridor and cried my eyes sore.

The doctor prescribed painkillers but the swelling did not stop.At the time, I worked as a brand promoter with a Marketing Agency.

I had to stand on one spot for most of the day when doing promotions in supermarkets or moving around different part of Nairobi and the pain and inflammation got worse. I constantly sought leave from work.

Finally, I quit the job.I later visited Mater Hospital and it was discovered that the first hospital misdiagnosed my condition.

I was not suffering from rheumatoid arthritis my symptoms were inconsistent with the condition and my rheumatoid tests were negative. More lab tests were doneI don't remember the medical termsbut they were all negative.

A Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) testa type of scanon both knees was recommended. I didn't have the money then, but after eight months I had raised the S0,000 needed for the test.

One morning in September 2016 I was at the Mater Hospital anxiously waiting for the MRI results. In wobbly letters it was scribbled 'grade four Chondomalacia Patella'.

I was scared. A week passed and I took the results to a specialist for further advice"Beth, you have a joint effusion, osteoarthritis OA," the doctor said.

"Osteoarthritis is manageable. Take medication as prescribed and exercise in moderation it will go a long way in keeping your joints healthy.

Watch what you eat. Choose a lot of dark-coloured vegetables such as spinach.

"Beth Njoroge does moderate exercises at a gym. PHOTO | TOM MWIRARIAMY LIFE CHANGEDI went home that day to start my lifelong medication for my condition.

Medication includes anti-inflammatory drugs and supplements and I am required to go for physiotherapy three times a week. However, I have not gone for physiotherapy for five months as it is too expensive for me.

A physiotherapy session costs Sh2,500 and one anti-inflammatory tablet costs Sh50. The doctor's consultation fee is S,000 per month. I cannot afford the consultation fee and physiotherapy but I struggle to buy the daily tablets.

I exercise my joints by taking walks or sometimes dancing in moderation. It is the moving around that makes my condition manageable.

Arthritis changed my life. It is not just pain and fatigue, it is a battle to live, a battle for happiness amid unceasing pain.

It scares me when I muse about carrying a pregnancy and childbirth. Arthritis is a pricking shoe you can't remove but I got over myself and found passion to sensitise the public on arthritis because it's misunderstood and sometimes misdiagnosed.

I raise awareness on arthritis. I go round schools and use the hashtag #everydaywitharthritis on Facebook and Instagram.

I'm a part of the Everyday With Arthritis network, and we have organised medical camps and partnered with other organisations, such as the Rotary Club and Box Girls, to raise awareness. 4Doctor's adviceDr Paul Karau says that osteoarthritis, which is incurable, affects large joints, such as knee joints, that bear much of the body's weight.

A strained sitting posture, standing for many hours or physical trauma could cause arthritis.Sometimes it is an inherited genetic condition.

Arthritis is common among the elderly, and sportsmen and women. The doctor refers to a study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine that indicates that about 30 percent of athletes are predisposed to arthritis by the time they retire from sports.

The study subjects were 700 retired Swedish athletes aged between 50-93 years, who had played professional and Olympic level sports. The study compared them with 1,400 men in the same age bracket who exercised moderately or not at all.

Osteoarthritis is managed by taking supplements such as omega 3 and use of anti-inflammation drugs. Surgery is sometimes used as a last resort, the doctor explains.

Surgery aligns the joints or replaces the joints with prosthetic plastic when the natural joint is completely destroyed. The doctor advises people living with osteoarthritis to change their lifestyles, including losing some weight, having a good upright sitting posture and doing moderate physical exercises.

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Publication:Daily Nation, Kenya (Nairobi, Kenya)
Date:Apr 19, 2018
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