Cases of osteoarthritis in Canada have more than doubled in the past 30 years, according to a new study. It assumes that up to 1 billion people worldwide could be affected by the disease by 2050.
The study published in the journal The Lancet Rheumatology Montag noted that between 1990 and 2020, the number of osteoarthritis cases worldwide rose from 256 million to 595 million — a 132 percent increase. In Canada, cases rose from 1.8 million to 4.1 million over the same period, according to study author Dr. Jamie Steinmetz.
“There's just a lot of people who have this disease,” she told Global News. “It can have a huge impact on one's life.”
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, and it can be very painful, Steinmetz said. Hands, knees and hips are typically affected.
According to the study, 15 percent of the world's population over 30 is currently affected by the progressive disease. The prevalence of the disease increases with age.
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The study found that cases have increased over the past three decades due to aging, population growth and obesity. Obesity accounted for about 20 percent of cases in 2020, up from 16 percent in 1990.
Osteoarthritis can affect women more than men. The study found that 61 percent of cases in 2020 were in women, compared to 39 percent in men. Anatomical differences, as well as genetic and hormonal factors, explain why women may be more affected, the study says.
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Steinmetz warns that an increase in osteoarthritis cases could put additional pressure on healthcare systems as Canada's hospitals are already stretched to the limit. She said the condition can co-occur with other medical conditions, presenting a more complicated scenario for healthcare providers.
According to the Arthritis Society of Canada, since there is no standardized test for osteoarthritis, the diagnosis can be made based on symptoms and a physical exam. An X-ray or MRI scan is not usually part of the diagnostic process, but may be ordered if the patient does not respond to treatment.
There is no effective cure for the disease, which is why Steinmetz attaches great importance to preventive measures such as regular exercise, a healthy diet, increasing muscle strength and avoiding joint injuries. Painkillers could help manage the condition, she said.
She also hopes hospitals can detect the condition and start interventions earlier, rather than waiting until it's really serious.
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