Bengaluru: The prevalence of osteoarthritis (OA) is higher in women than men. Women of the age between 50 to 60 years are three-and-a-half times at increased risk for hand osteoarthritis. The risk for developing hip osteoarthritis is 10 per cent higher, and the risk of knee osteoarthritis is 40 per cent higher in women than men.
Women develop OA at a later age than men. However, they experience more severe symptoms and pain than men. The symptoms include swelling, tenderness, reduced movement, and joint inflammation. Women should maintain a healthy weight, incorporate exercise in routine life, and consult with doctors in case of arthritic symptoms.
The possible reasons for the high prevalence of OA in women than men are:
Alteration in the hormonal level: Alteration in the hormonal levels during the menstrual cycle and menopause plays a critical role in OA development in women. There is an increased joint laxity due to increased levels of hormones during menstruation. It may result in injury due to joint instability leading to OA. In contrast, hormonal level, especially estrogen, reduces in menopause. Estrogen is responsible for maintaining bone mineral density and prevents inflammation.
Different biomechanics and skeletal system: The alignment of the knee joints in women is not straight as men as their hips are wider than knees. It also increases their risk of injury. Researchers found that women who play soccer are at least three to four times more prone to injuries than men. Testosterone is the dominant hormone in males. It is responsible for building muscles. These strong muscles effectively support the joints in males, thereby reducing their risk for OA.
Genetics: Genetics also plays a vital role in developing osteoarthritis in women. Women with mothers suffering from OA are at increased risk of developing it at the same age and in similar joints. Although family history increases the risk of OA in both males and females; researchers believe that the genetic link is stronger in females than males.
Obesity: Women are more likely to carry excess weight than women. Excessive weight or obesity in women increases the risk of OA through several mechanisms. Extra weight increases more pressure on the weight-bearing joints such as hips and knees. It results in excessive friction leading to OA.