Tall men suscep­tible to osteo­arthritis of the knee

The disease process of osteoarthritis is still poorly known. We have lately begun to understand that osteoarthritis is a disease neither independent nor caused only by aging, but the end result of several different disease processes. Licentiate of Medicine Maiju Welling from the University of Oulu shows in her doctoral thesis that risk of osteoarthritis of the knee is increased in people who are taller than average. This finding strengthens the understanding that biomechanical factors are important in the development of osteoarthritis. Genes are another important background factor.

In her study, Welling investigated the incidence of osteoarthritis and its risk factors in three Finnish data. In people born in Northern Finland in 1966 (Birth Cohort of 1966) the incidence of osteoarthritis of any joint was 6.3 percent in men and 4.7 per cent in women at the age of 46. People in the tallest quartile had been diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the knee more often than the others. This correlation was stronger in men, but is was seen in women as well.

Some of the known biomechanical factors which predispose to osteoarthritis are various injuries, overweight, malposition of joints, and stress caused by work or sports.

In addition to environmental factors, genes have a large effect on development of osteoarthritis. A doctoral thesis, many genes predisposing to osteoarthritis of the knee were discovered in the Health 2000 data.

There is no cure for osteoarthritis of the knee. Patients are encouraged to practice exercise which suits them. Overweight patients may decrease their symptoms with losing weight. Pain medication is used when necessary, and artificial joint surgery in advanced cases.  Additional information on the various forms of osteoarthritis, and the influencing factors, gives an opportunity to offer osteoarthritis patients treatment which is targeted to their symptoms, and to prevent the breaking out of the disease.

Maiju Welling’s doctoral thesis in the field of public health, “Etiological pathways of osteoarthritis” is inspected in the University of Oulu on 21 April 2017

Last updated: 12.4.2017