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Why Does OA Affect More Women than Men?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis, affecting over 30 million American adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk factors for OA include:

  • Age (risk increases as age does)
  • Family history
  • Injury
  • Obesity
  • Overuse of affected joint
  • Being female!

The last risk factor has been known for quite awhile now; researchers estimate that about 60% of Americans with OA are women. Interestingly, men are more likely to have OA before age 55, but after that point, the amount of women with this type of arthritis significantly surpasses their male counterparts’ statistics.

Woman with OA visits her doctor

Until recently, we’ve been partially in the dark as to why this is the case. Now a new study has revealed an interesting discovery regarding OA of the knee.

New Study Sheds Light

Ten percent of men and thirteen percent of women over the age of 60 struggle with symptomatic knee OA. What causes this difference between the genders?

Recently researchers at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University uncovered a telling clue. According to the study, the fluid within the knee holds the answers. The knee joint contains synovial fluid, and cells within this fluid send and receive messages via microRNA.

The synovial fluid protects our cartilage, which in turn pads our bones. Osteoarthritis is the destruction of this cartilage, which is why differences in the fluids that serve to protect it could naturally have a big impact.

According to Dr. Sadanand Fulzele, bone biologist in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, this novel discovery could both explain the higher rate of RA in women and consequently pave the way for a more targeted way to diagnose and treat this “wear and tear” arthritis.

Estrogen Plays a Role

Another interesting aspect of the research had to do with the hormone estrogen. Scientists found some of the microRNA that should have been promoting estrogen signaling and collagen-producing cells was altered or turned off in osteoarthritis patients. This was especially true for females with OA.

Furthermore, lower estrogen levels encourage speedier production of the cells that destroy bone. Because of this, women are at higher risk for OA and bone loss after they go through menopause.

What Can You Do About Your OA?

It’s exciting to read about potential future improvements to OA treatments, but what can you do in the meanwhile? Here are some tips for managing your osteoarthritis, whether you’re male or female!

Elderly couple living with osteoarthritis symptoms

 

Tip #1 – Eat Right

If you have OA, here is a handy article on the nine inflammatory foods you should avoid at all costs.

Not only is preventing inflammation a crucial part of self-care for anyone who has OA, it can also help you shed a few pounds and thereby decrease the strain on your joints. Of course, not everyone who has OA needs to lose weight, so be sure to ask your doctor whether you are in that category.

Tip #2 – Pick the right medications

When it comes to osteoarthritis painkillers, not all were created equal. Most of the time, physicians recommend acetaminophen first, then graduate to NSAIDS. If neither of those are cutting it, they may prescribe Cox-2 inhibitors, which are prescription-strength NSAIDS made to be less stomach irritating on the stomach.

For extreme OA pain, you and your physician might try:

  • Opioid Analgesics
  • Hyaluronic Acid Injections
  • Corticosteroid Injections

Tip #3 – Don’t Jump the Gun on Surgery

Many patients aren’t as satisfied with joint replacement surgery for their OA as they thought they’d be, and this is especially true for younger patients. This may seem counterintuitive since youth is usually associated with a faster healing process; however, the younger you are, the higher your physical demands. For example, people in their 60’s probably still want to golf and play tennis, whereas people in their 90’s usually just want to be able to walk and stand without pain.

Tip #4 – Live a Healthy Life!

The first tip is definitely part of this equation, but don’t forget to include exercise, sleep, and stress management into your daily life. Things that enhance your health and wellbeing usually also help you manage your OA symptoms.

Here are two great articles to get you started:

  1. Lifestyle Tips for Osteoarthritis Knee Pain Relief
  2. Best Exercises for Osteoarthritis Knee Pain

Conclusion

Having OA can be painful and debilitating, so it’s always encouraging to hear of promising new developments. Even though the amazing team at Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University just made a huge stride, there are still plenty of steps to go on the journey to treat and eventually cure OA.

If you’d like to be part of this important journey while also taking a proactive role in your own OA treatment path, you might want to consider partaking in an OA clinical study. Participants receive all medical care free of charge and often receive access to the most promising treatments. We are still enrolling a few more volunteers for our upcoming osteoarthritis trial, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you are interested in checking your eligibility. You can also call us at (205) 757-8208 with any questions or concerns!

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