Who Is At Risk For Osteoarthritis & Is There A Blood Test For It?

National Institutes of Health (NIH) says that 27 million Americans above 25 have osteoarthritis.(1)

NIH also says that seventy percent of people above 70 have osteoarthritis.(2)

Osteoarthritis is inflammatory as well as degenerative disease-carrying the mechanism of both the processes. It occurs due to excessive uses and stressful events on the joint which most commonly involves weight-bearing joints such as hip joint, knee joint, ankle joint, etc. There are excessive wear and tear of the articular cartilage present in the joint space (which has the function of making the movement smooth) that leads to a reduction in the joint space and symptoms of osteoarthritis begin to appear.(3)

Who Is At Risk For Osteoarthritis?

There are a variety of risk factors identified in a different group of people and different ages. The risk factors can also be divided into modifiable and non-modifiable factors. In the category of nonmodifiable factors, age is the most important risk factor which is present in all of the individuals. Genetics is also associated with increased risk of osteoarthritis, although, it is not associated with all of the individuals only a few of them are suffering from genetic predisposition because of the mutation in the previous generations.

Few other people who are at risk of getting osteoarthritis due to non-modifiable factors are people suffering from metabolic disorders like Wilson’s disease, alkaptonuria, etc. , hemoglobinopathies like sickle cell anemia, neuropathic disorders like Charcot Marie tooth disease, congenital disorders like slipped capital femoral epiphysis, etc. or hormonal imbalance such as acromegaly.(3)

In the modifiable factors, the most common of all of the risk factors is abnormal weight gain and obesity. It is a modern-day problem generated due to unusual food habits leading to weight gain in disproportion to the height and carrying capacity of the individual which leads to an abnormal amount of stress on the weight-bearing joints. Other people who are at risk of getting osteoarthritis are those who have suffered some trauma from an early age to weight-bearing joint, reduced level of sex hormones which help maintain the cartilage in the joints, infections, muscle weakness, etc.(4)

An acquired metabolic disorder like diabetes mellitus, gouty arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, infections like osteomyelitis, etc. can also cause the progression of osteoarthritis in a quickly possible manner.

Is There A Blood Test For Osteoarthritis?

The diagnosis of osteoarthritis is usually based on a radiological investigation like x-ray, computed tomography scan, magnetic resonance imaging, bone scanning, etc.

Although there are various bone and cartilage-based biomarkers that can be tested in the blood according to the studies, none of these can be surely associated with the diagnosis of osteoarthritis. So, it carries not much of a significant investigatory mechanism in dealing with osteoarthritis. Acute phase reactants such as erythrocytes sedimentation rate, c reactive protein, etc. are also within the normal range because of subnormal levels of inflammation going on at the joint. In the synovial fluid analysis, there is some time increased number of white blood cells up to the range of 2500 / microlitre. Apart from these, no other blood test is helpful in directly diagnosing the condition of osteoarthritis.

Conclusion

Age is the most common factor belonging to the progression of osteoarthritis and is present in all the individuals without any exception. It is also a non-modifiable factor which is why osteoarthritis is a common condition nowadays as life expectancy has increased from the early 50s to 70s. Obesity and abnormal weight gain is the most common modifiable factor responsible for causing osteoarthritis. It can be controlled simply by weight reduction and even help in the recovery of the joint from the already occurred damage.

There is no specific blood test that can tell that the person is suffering from osteoarthritis. Its diagnosis can only be made sure by the radiological investigation which is almost confirmatory.

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