Osteoarthritis Rates Soar as Population Ages

As the Baby Boomer generation, and Generation X, reach middle and older age, the world’s population is rapidly greying.  With greater longevity, but also a greater incidence of obesity, research has found that osteoarthritis cases rose sharply between 1990 and 2019.

According to a recent article posted in the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners GP News, new research suggests that with a 113 percent increase in osteoarthritis cases over the past 3 decades, the burden on healthcare systems is expected to rise further in the coming years.  Data for the research paper, published in the American Journal of Arthritis and Rheumatology, was gathered by the 2019 Global Burden of Disease study. 

The highest rate of osteoarthritis was seen in the United States and a higher prevalence of the condition in high-income countries. Osteoarthritis is a very common disease that often affects the joints in the knees, hips, hands, and spine.   Women are more likely to develop osteoarthritis and older age, obesity, joint injuries and repeated stress on the joint are some of the factors that may increase the risk of developing the condition. 

Osteoarthritis can cause pain, stiffness, tenderness, and a loss of flexibility in the joint.  If you have joint pain or stiffness that doesn’t resolve after icing and rest, make an appointment with your doctor.  According to the Mayo Clinic, osteoarthritis is a degenerative “wear and tear” disease that can make it difficult to perform daily activities and may contribute to sleep problems and depression resulting from pain and disability.

To help prevent the disease, older adults can take steps to lose weight, avoid repetitive activities that place stress on joints, and use exercise therapy to prevent loss of function.  Medications to treat osteoarthritis such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are associated with a significant increase in the risk of myocardial infarction or cardiovascular death.  In more severe cases, when conservative treatments don’t relieve symptoms, cortisone injections, lubrication injections, or surgery may be recommended by your doctor.