Osteoarthritis and Women – Time to Checkmate


Osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease, appears to have a gender bias. The condition is twice as common in women than in men, especially among those who suffer from arthritis in the knees and hands. Symptoms typically begin to appear in women in their 40s and 50s and progress more quickly after age 55, after women enter menopause.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that about 1 in 4 women have been diagnosed with arthritis compared to about 1 in 5 men. 

Why are Women More Prone to Osteoarthritis? 

Various factors contribute to why women are more likely to develop osteoarthritis than men. These include;

1. Hormonal Changes: Women experience hormonal changes throughout their lives, including puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. These changes can affect joint health and make them more susceptible to osteoarthritis.

2. Anatomy: Women tend to have wider hips than men, which places more pressure on their knee joints, increasing their risk of developing knee osteoarthritis. 

3. Genetics: Some studies have found that specific genes that increase the risk of osteoarthritis are more prevalent in women.

4. Repetitive Motion: Women are more likely to engage in activities that involve repetitive motion, such as cleaning, cooking, and caring for children. Over time, these activities can cause joint damage and lead to osteoarthritis. 

Early Detection and Treatment

Osteoarthritis affects millions worldwide, and early detection and treatment are critical for managing the condition and reducing its impact on quality of life. Here are some strategies for detecting and treating osteoarthritis early:

1. Know the risk factors: Understanding the risk factors for osteoarthritis, such as age, family history, previous joint injuries, and being overweight or obese, can help you identify if you are at risk for developing the condition.

2. Watch for symptoms: Common symptoms of osteoarthritis include joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, which may worsen after activity or in the morning. See your doctor for an evaluation if you experience any of these symptoms.

3. Get regular check-ups: Regular check-ups with your doctor can help detect osteoarthritis early, especially if you have risk factors or symptoms.

Technology is also helping with improving treatments and managing disease conditions. Tools like AI help draw correlations between radiology, pathology, and physician diagnosis and draw correlations. Platforms like Prodigi.ai are continuously building solutions that can serve more profound and continuous research. 

For example, the study published in the Journal of Musculoskeletal and Neuronal Interactions examined the association between knee arthritis and femoral neck bone characteristics. It looked at the association where the osteoarthritis was mild knee without radiographic association and femoral neck bone association and those where there was radiographically assessable knee arthritis.

Managing Osteoarthritis in Women

Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition that can impact the quality of life of its victims. As a result, there is no cure for this disorder. However, women can manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life by taking various actions.

1. Exercise: Low-impact exercises such as swimming, cycling, and walking can help strengthen muscles and improve joint mobility. Although, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional before starting any exercise program.

2. Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the strain on joints and decrease the risk of osteoarthritis.

3. Medication: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help relieve pain and inflammation.

4. Surgery: In severe cases, joint replacement surgery may be necessary to relieve pain and improve joint function.

Emerging Regenerative Therapies for Osteoarthritis

Over the last few years, emerging treatments for osteoarthritis have gained much attention as they show potential to go beyond temporary symptom relief and promote cartilage repair. These potential disease modifying osteoarthritis drugs (DMOADs) target unique disease mechanisms in hopes of achieving the same therapeutic goal: the preservation or restoration of articular cartilage.

1. Gene therapy: Researchers are investigating the use of cell and gene therapy to treat osteoarthritis, which contains a mixture of non-transformed chondrocytes with chondrocytes that were transduced with a retroviral vector to overexpress TGF-1. This therapy has been recently approved in South Korea and is currently being tested in phase 3 clinical trials in the US.

2.  MIV-711: Medivir has developed a highly selective inhibitor of cathepsin K, a protein that breaks down collagen and plays an important role in the structural integrity of both bone and cartilage. The company’s research has shown that inhibition of cathepsin K can reduce the rate of joint destruction in preclinical models of osteoarthritis. The drug is currently in phase 2 clinical trials.

3. SM04690: SM04690 is being developed as an intra-articular (IA) knee injection to target cellular mechanisms that may promote the regeneration of cartilage cells in the joint. SM04690 inhibits the function of a key pathway (Wnt) that plays a pivotal role in the maturation of cartilage-forming progenitor cells called chondrocytes. Currently, SM04690 is being tested in phase 2 clinical trials for its ability to promote cartilage repair. 

Prodigi.ai is currently working to allow patients from across the country to easily book a bone mass density from the comforts of their homes. They get access to the best of diagnostic centers and services that are within their proximity, affordability, and accessibility. In addition to this, our platform is also building algorithms that will make it possible to detect and diagnose osteoarthritis early in time.

In conclusion, osteoarthritis is a prevalent condition that affects millions of people, especially women. While the exact cause of why women are more prone to developing osteoarthritis is not fully understood, several factors contribute to it, such as hormonal changes, anatomy, genetics, and repetitive motion. Women can manage their symptoms through exercise, weight management, medication, physical therapy, and surgery. It is essential to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and an effective treatment plan. Remember, early diagnosis and timely treatment can help women with osteoarthritis improve their quality of life and prevent the disease from progressing.

This article is co-authored by Dr. Abhijit Jawali A. (MBBS, D’Ortho, DNB-Orthopedics, FIJR), Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Bangalore Baptist Hospital.

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