Sunday September 26, 2021

‘Pakistanis have very soft bones due to lack of exercise, excessive use of steroids’

September 21, 2018

Pakistanis have ‘very soft bones’ due to excessive use of steroids, lack of exercise and poor dietary habits, which is resulting in the destruction of their joints at an early age as compared to Americans or people living in other parts of the developed world, visiting orthopedic specialists from US hospitals told The News.

“Bones of Pakistani people are very soft as compared to people in the United States and other developed countries and the main reason we have identified is the excessive use of steroids in Pakistan, lack of exercise and poor nutrition,” said Dr Junaid Makda from Advocate Condell Hospital, Chicago, who is heading a six-member team that is performing 65 hip and knee replacement surgeries at Indus Hospital Karachi.

The six-member team comprises three orthopedic specialists, a physician assistant, a physiotherapist and a manager and they are from different US hospitals who have come to Indus Hospital for the second time to perform marathon surgeries and procedures to replace hips and knee joints of Pakistani patients whose bones and joints had decayed.

US orthopedic specialists were surprised at the excessive use of steroids by Pakistani people for the pain management and were also shocked to learn that there was no control over the use of drugs and medicines in the country.

“Doctors are frequently prescribing steroids to their patients for pain management while patients are using these drugs on their own for a longer duration, which is killing their bones,” said Dr Makda, who said he had seen at least 50 per cent of patients locally whose bones and joints were degenerated very fast due to prolonged use of steroids for the pain-management.

“Steroids are very important and life-saving drugs but they should be used very rarely, only in life-threatening situations and not as regularly as they are being used in Pakistan. These chemicals deprive bones of blood supply and nutrition and killing the bones of patients.”

The visiting US orthopedic surgeons said people in Pakistan were damaging their joints at early ages between 35 and 40, whereas in the United States, these problems occur after 65 or even 70 years of age.

They said that due to destruction of joints, patients’ quality of life suffers and they cannot walk, so they put on weight, they become dependent on other family members, and they also acquire lifestyle diseases, including diabetes, hypertension and coronary heart disease.

“Women in Pakistan are at a greater risk of developing arthritis and more prone to degeneration of joints and bones, as after a certain age, they stop moving and start getting weight. Pakistani people, especially women, will have to develop the habit of regular exercise.”

Another orthopedic specialist, Dr Umar Burney, from Dallas, Texas, said trauma was one of the major reasons behind the shattering of bones and often people slipped while making ablution and their bones were smashed like glass.

Dr Umar also pointed out a lack of the habit of regular exercise in Pakistani men and women, poor nutrition status, and excessive use of steroids, and urged the people to avoid using them for pain management.

“Even Hakeems are using steroids in their traditional medicines these days and they are causing irreparable loss to patients, especially those facing orthopedic issues.

“Prolonged use of steroids orally by the patients for an extended period has emerged as a serious health issue here and this needs to be checked at the earliest,” Dr Umar warned and called for creating awareness among the people.  

Which drug is steroid?

Dr Makda said the best solution is to ask your doctor if he is prescribing steroids or not. “If your doctor does not tell you whether the drug is steroid or not, use your cellphone and Google it,” he advised.  

Stronger bones

The physician assistant from Dallas, Texas, Dr Branden Lassen said giving stress to your bones makes them absorb more calcium and that makes them strong and healthy.

“When you do the regular exercise and give stress to your bones, they absorb more calcium and they become harder and harder. More the calcium in the bones, more they would remain strong till a longer period of time.”

Dr Lassen said he would urge Pakistan to work on weight management by doing regular exercise and also have diet rich of calcium and other minerals so that they could have healthy bones and joints.