Osteoarthritis could nearly triple a person’s risk of developing a multitude of other chronic illnesses, a new two-decade study finds.

People with osteoarthritis (OA) — where cartilage breaks down, allowing bones to rub against each other — tend to develop multiple other health problems as the years progress, researchers found.

These other chronic illnesses can include heart disease, diabetes, mood disorders, cancer and diseases of the kidneys, liver, lungs and other organs, according to a report published recently in the journal RMD Open.

“Our findings suggest that individuals with OA face an almost threefold higher risk of developing severe multimorbidity,” concluded the research team led by Andrea Dell’isola, an associate professor at Lund University in Sweden.

For the study, researchers analyzed medical data for nearly 10,000 residents from the Skane region in the south of Sweden diagnosed with osteoarthritis between 2008 and 2009.

Each of these OA patients was matched with two people of the same age and sex without osteoarthritis, so their health patterns could be tracked and compared.

Researchers found that people who were likely to become sickest as they aged tended to have osteoarthritis.

About 42% of people who developed the most chronic illnesses had OA, compared with 29% of those with the fewest.

Overall, OA increased a person’s risk of being in the sickest group by about two-and-a-half times, researchers said.

The effects of OA on lifestyle and health could potentially explain this increased risk, researchers said.

People with arthritis are less likely to engage in physical activity, and are more likely to suffer chronic low-grade inflammation. Combined with a high-calorie diet, these factors could increase a person’s risk for many different diseases, researchers said.

The sickest people in the study had the most disability, “suggesting that individuals with OA … are more likely to experience a higher level of disability than those without OA,” the researchers wrote.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about osteoarthritis.

SOURCE: BMJ Group, news release, July 9, 2024

Source: HealthDay

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