Low Rates of Knee Arthritis in Women

Radiographic knee osteoarthritis rates are relatively low but progression is common

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Knee osteoarthritis is one of the main health burdens in the United States. Because of this condition, there is a need to better understand the course of disease to help prevent and slow knee arthritis.

Middle-aged women develop osteoarthritis at fairly low rates. However, in women who already have the condition, symptoms are likely to get worse within 15 years.

"Keep stress off your knee to prevent arthritis."

Nigel K. Arden, MD, of the University of Oxford in England, and colleagues recently put together the longest history of radiographic knee osteoarthritis (knee arthritis as shown by x-ray) to date.

At the beginning of the study, about 77 (13.7 percent) of 561 patients had osteoarthritis in at least one knee. At the end of 15 years, that number increased to about 268 (47.8 percent).

Each year, the rate of new cases of arthritis increased by 2.3 percent.

Even patients with the smallest visible joint damage on x-ray were 4.5 more likely to experience worsening of knee osteoarthritis within 15 years.

Despite the relatively low rates of knee osteoarthritis, it is still important to know how many people are affected by the condition. As the baby boomer generation ages, more and more people will be at risk of osteoarthritis.

The participants for this study came from the Chingford Women's Study. X-ray images were analyzed for osteoarthritis using the Kellgren/Lawrence scale, a five-level scoring method for osteoarthritis in which 0 is no osteoarthritis and 4 is severe osteoarthritis.

The research was funded by the University of Oxford and Arthritis Research UK.

The study is published in Arthritis & Rheumatism.

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Review Date: 
July 15, 2012
Last Updated:
January 17, 2013