Osteoarthritis Is Not Just For Grandma

African American women are at higher risk for knee osteoarthritis and knee replacement

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Pain, stiffness and swelling can be daily challenges for those living with knee osteoarthritis (OA). This debilitating disease is known to occur more frequently with age and in certain populations.

A recent study looked at the role race and gender played in the risk of developing knee OA. Knee OA is a degenerative disease of the knee joint.

The study found African American women were at a higher risk for knee OA and total knee replacement (TKR) than other sex and race combinations.

"Ask your doctor how to help prevent knee osteoarthritis."

Elena Losina, PhD, co-director of Orthopedic and Arthritis center for Outcomes Research at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and colleagues conducted a population-based study. The study examined which parts of the population were at greater risk for knee OA and the need for knee replacement. The researchers used a computer simulation that incorporated data on the incidence of knee OA and TKR, the only definitive treatment for knee OA.

The knee OA data included rates of obesity, sex, race and disease progression. The data was calculated from previous studies. Statistics on total knee replacement surgery included deaths, obesity, other conditions, other knee OA treatments and implant failure.

The computer simulation predicted the 10, 20 and 30 year risk of being diagnosed with knee OA and TKR after age 40. The data was sorted by race and sex. The data results showed African-American women were particularly at risk. Three percent of this demographic were likely to be diagnosed with symptomatic knee OA by age 50. Five percent are likely to receive the diagnosis by age 65.

Caucasian men who did not have a knee OA by age 40 had a 10 percent risk of developing the disease over their lifetime. African-American females without knee OA by age 40 had a 17 percent risk of developing the disease.

The chance of developing knee OA becomes larger with age. Of those free of OA at age 40, 11.3 percent of African-American, 10.5 percent of Hispanic and 10 percent of Caucasian women will develop it by age 65.

TKR occurred the least in Hispanic males (3.8 percent) and the most in black females (6.8 percent). The rate of TKR in other demographics fell within this range.

The higher rate of obesity among African-American women may be what is driving the rates of knee OA and TKR up in this demographic. Obesity is known to increase the risk of developing knee OA.

Doctors can use this information to target those at higher risk of knee OA and TKR for preventative measures like weight loss. For many, waiting until age 50 or 60 to consider knee OA prevention is too late.

This study was funded by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases of the National Institutes of Health. The study was presented at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting. The authors report no conflicts of interest. Research presented at academic meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer reviewed journal.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 28, 2012
Last Updated:
February 27, 2013