(Reuters Health)—A new study finds that as many as four in 10 people may develop hand osteoarthritis.
Among women, researchers found the lifetime risk was 47% while for men it was about 25%. Obese people also had 11% higher lifetime risk than those who were not obese.
Hand osteoarthritis can cause disability and problems with daily living, but is not often a subject of research, the study team points out in a paper online May 8 in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology.1
Past research shows the lifetime risk for arthritis of the knee to be 45% and 25#% for the hip, they write.
“These findings indicate that symptomatic hand osteoarthritis is very common, and affects a substantial proportion of the population in their lifetimes,” lead author Jin Qin tells Reuters Health by email.
“Given the aging population and increasing life expectancy in the U.S., it is reasonable to expect that more Americans will be affected by this painful and debilitating condition in the years to come,” says Dr. Qin, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
The researchers analyzed data from a North Carolina-based study of more than 2,000 people over age 45. The study collected data between 1999 and 2010, using self-reports of arthritis symptoms and X-ray images of the participants’ hands.
Based on this group, researchers estimated the proportion of people who will develop osteoarthritis in at least one hand by age 85 to be 39.8%.
Whites were at greater risk, at 41%, for hand osteoarthritis than blacks, with 29%. Obese people had a lifetime risk of 47%, compared with 36% among the non-obese.
“Some people with hand osteoarthritis have minimal or no symptoms. But for many, symptomatic hand osteoarthritis greatly affects their everyday lives, with few options for improving their symptoms,” Dr. Fiona Watt, a research lecturer and honorary consultant rheumatologist at the University of Oxford in the U.K., says by email.
The pain can vary and tends to be worse the more people use their hands, flaring up during daily activity like carrying heavy shopping bags or typing on keyboards or phones, says Watt, who was not involved in the study.
“Our hands are so important, and we need to look after them,” Watt says, adding that doing aerobic exercise and watching our weight can help protect against all types of osteoarthritis.
“We know that injury can increase the risk of osteoarthritis,” Watt says. “Although we can’t always prevent hand injuries, wearing supporting and protective gloves in occupations with heavy use of the hand is important.”
Preventing injuries and maintaining a healthy weight may lower the risk of osteoarthritis, Qin says. She adds, “Earlier diagnosis allows earlier use of interventions (e.g. physical/occupational therapy), that may help manage symptoms, maintain better function, and improve quality of life.”
- Qin J, Barbour KE, Murphy LB, et al. Lifetime risk of symptomatic hand osteoarthritis: The Johnston County osteoarthritis project. Arthritis Rheumatol. 2017 May 4. doi: 10.1002/art.40097. [Epub ahead of print]