Osteoarthritis twice as likely if parents suffer the condition

New research published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, shows that children whose parents have osteoarthritis of the knee are twice as likely to develop the condition themselves. This research suggests that genetic make-up plays a role in osteoarthritis development.

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It causes cartilage in the joints to fray, decay, and wear. In extreme cases, the cartilage may wear away completely, resulting in a bone-to-bone joint. Also known as degenerative joint disease. It causes joint pain, reduced joint movement, and loss of joint function. The disability occurs most often when the disease affects the spine and weight-bearing joint, such as knees and hips.

The findings are based on a study of 490 patients with severe knee osteoarthritis, which warranted total knee replacement, 737 of their brothers and sisters over the age of 40 living nearby, and 1729 patients with knee pain, drawn from neighbouring family doctor practice lists.

X-rays were taken of the knees of the siblings and practice list patients to look for evidence of structural changes caused by osteoarthritis.

Older age was a risk factor for osteoarthritis. But even allowing for important risk factors, such as smoking habit, heavy weight, age and gender, the siblings were still more than twice as likely to have knee osteoarthritis as the practice list patients.

The genetic risk was spread across age groups, but brothers were more likely to have the condition than sisters, the findings showed.

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