Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, impacts millions of American adults. But this common condition isn’t an equal-opportunity disease. Instead, it impacts women twice as often as men, and the difference only increases with age.
At Ani Medical Group with offices in Old Bridge and Hazlet, New Jersey, our experienced providers are dedicated to ensuring women of all ages understand their risks and options when it comes to osteoarthritis.
We’ve put our heads together to develop this informative guide outlining the information you need about osteoarthritis and how it impacts women. Keep reading to learn more about this degenerative joint condition.
What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is sometimes referred to as “wear-and-tear arthritis.” This is because it’s often caused by years of using your joints. While osteoarthritis is most often an issue for aging Americans, it can begin in your 40s and is the leading cause of disability for people under 65.
It occurs due to the constant use of your joints, which wears away the cartilage that protects them. This leaves your bones exposed so that they rub together. This deterioration triggers changes in your entire joint as the connective tissues that hold it together and keep your muscle attached to your bone disintegrates.
Symptoms of osteoarthritis include:
- Loss of flexibility
- Grating sensations
- Popping or crackling noises
Osteoarthritis can also trigger the development of bone spurs, extra pieces of bone that feel like hard lumps, around the affected joint.
Why do women get osteoarthritis more than men?
There are many different reasons scientists believe that women are more affected by osteoarthritis than men. Here’s a look at the factors you need to understand when it comes to this degenerative bone disease and your body:
1. A matter of body mechanics
Because women have wider hips to allow for pregnancy and childbirth, our knees don’t align under our hips the way they do in men. This lack of alignment triggers a higher number of knee injuries in women. Women also have more flexible tendons to make childbirth easier, but this added flexibility also increases the risk of injury to joints in the lower body. Joint injuries in adolescence and earlier adulthood are one of the biggest risk factors for developing osteoarthritis later in life.
2. More women are overweight or obese
People who are overweight or obese are 4-5 times more likely to develop osteoarthritis. This isn’t great news for women who are more likely than men to carry excess weight. Researchers believe that women struggle with a healthy body more than men for a number of reasons, including:
- Women have more body fat than men
- Women naturally have a lower resting metabolism than men
- Women gain fat in areas that are more difficult to lose than men
- Women endure more hormonal changes than men
In addition to the added force on your joints that being obese or overweight causes, research indicates it also triggers a “circulating systemic factor.” This factor is linked to a faster breakdown of cartilage and an increase in osteoarthritis.
3. The role of hormones
Just as hormones impact women’s tendency to carry more excess weight than men, women experience more hormonal changes than men. These hormone imbalances and changes increase the likelihood of developing osteoarthritis.
During the menstrual cycle, hormone levels fluctuate and increase joint laxity, which is linked to instability and injury in the joints. As mentioned earlier, both conditions are associated with a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis later in life.
In addition, menopause triggers a host of hormonal changes, including a marked drop in estrogen levels. Once women enter menopause, joint pain and symptoms increase and researchers believe that the lower estrogen levels may accelerate the development of osteoarthritis.
Are there treatments for women with osteoarthritis?
At Ani Medical Group, board-certified orthopaedic, and spine surgeon Nasser Ani, MD, FACS, FRCS(C), creates a customized treatment plan for your osteoarthritis based on your unique symptoms and needs.
Dr. Ani often begins treatment for osteoarthritis with nonsurgical interventions first, such as anti-inflammatory medications, hot and cold therapy to address pain and swelling, physical therapy to improve flexibility and strength.
In addition, Dr. Ani may suggest joint injections, like cortisone shots, to help alleviate inflammation, or hyaluronic acid injections to aid in joint lubrication. Regenerative treatments, like platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy or stem cell treatments may also be an option.
If these more conservative treatments don’t provide you with the pain relief and improvement in mobility you need, Dr. Ani may then discuss surgical solutions, such a partial or total knee replacement or hip replacement.
Learn more about osteoarthritis in women and the treatments available by contacting the New Jersey office of Ani Medica Group nearest you. Call 732-264-8282 to schedule or request an appointment online.