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Why are women more prone to Osteoarthritis?
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Why are women more prone to Osteoarthritis?

Research suggests that women are more likely to experience joint pain, aching, and stiffness caused by osteoarthritis. The comparative data reflects a worrisome condition: -

  • Women aged 50 to 60 years might be 3.5 times (350%) more likely to develop hand osteoarthritis than men in the same age group
  • Women are 40% more likely to develop knee osteoarthritis than men
  • Women are 10% more likely to develop hip osteoarthritis than men

Now the question occurs why is there such a huge difference between men and women when it comes to the risk of developing osteoarthritis?

Although considering socio-economic reasons there are plenty of reasons, but three major reasons are described below: -

1. Changes in hormone levels: It is quite evident that women’s susceptibility to osteoarthritis may be associated with hormone level, it fluctuates with menstruation cycles and changes during menopause.

  • Menstruation and joint laxity: -Increased hormone levels at certain stages of the menstrual cycle may increase joint laxity, which is associated with joint instability and injury. Both joint instability and injury can contribute to the development of osteoarthritis. The relationship between menstruation, joint laxity, and osteoarthritis is perhaps clearest in the case of knee osteoarthritis. Many researchers believe fluctuations in joint laxity help explain why female athletes are 2 to 8 times more likely than men to tear the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the knee. People who have had a past ACL injury are as much as 4 to 6 times more likely to develop knee osteoarthritis in the affected knee.
  • Menopause: The risk of developing osteoarthritis for women increases significantly after menopause, they may also notice joint pain appearing or worsening during this time. Estrogen levels drop during menopause. This drop may contribute to changes in the body that accelerate the osteoarthritis process.

2. Differences in the musculoskeletal system and biomechanics: While women’s bodies have the same joints as men’s, certain musculoskeletal differences exist. These differences alter the way women tend to stand, walk, and run,and how their joint surfaces move in relation to one another (joint articulation). For example, evidence suggests because of anatomical differences, women’s knees experience more wear and tear. A study suggests that, when compared to men’s knees, the bony surfaces of women’s knee joints do not fit together or move with each other as well. Also, women’s knees contain less cartilage than men’s knees, even when the bone size and body mass are taken. Over time, these anatomical differences and the associated joint strain may contribute to the development of osteoarthritis

3. Tendency to carry excess weight: According to the National Institutes of Health, US women are more likely to be obese or extremely obese than men (40.4% compared to 35%). Obesity increases the risk of osteoarthritis because extra weight puts more stress on load-bearing joints, such as the hips, knees, and ankles. This stress can lead to damaging friction between the bones of joints. Obesity is associated with low-grade, systemic (body-wide) inflammation. This inflammation may contribute to the development of osteoarthritis in any joint, including non-weight-bearing joints in the hands.

Women and all adults can take steps to feel healthier and decrease their joint pain. Walking, physical therapy and exercises are generally considered safe because they help maintain and build muscle with minimal joint strain.

Dr. Rohit Lamba, Head of the Department & Senior Consultant

Bone, Joint Replacement And Orthopaedics

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