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Hand Osteoarthritis and Being Overweight - What's the Connection?

How does being overweight affect non-weightbearing joints, like the hands?


Updated: October 01, 2007

Understanding the Association

Hand joints are non-weightbearing joints. Hips, knees, and ankles are weightbearing joints. Understanding the connection between being overweight and having hand osteoarthritis may shed light on how being overweight may affect osteoarthritis in general, apart from the load-bearing itself.

It makes sense that being overweight would contribute to knee osteoarthritis. Logically, the more you weigh, the more strain you are putting on weightbearing joints. It is less clear why being overweight would contribute to osteoarthritis of the hands.

The Theory Tested

Researchers questioned if being overweight may be associated with the development of osteoarthritis through other metabolic factors. Using a population-based study involving 3,585 study participants who were 55 years old or older, researchers investigated how the following factors might affect hand osteoarthritis:

The Results

  • Results revealed significant association between being overweight and hand osteoarthritis, regardless of other metabolic factors.

  • The association between diabetes and hand osteoarthritis was only evident in study participants 55-62 years old but the association was not present in the total population or other age groups.

  • Hypertension was only weakly associated with hand osteoarthritis.

  • The total/HDL cholesterol ratio showed no significant association with hand osteoarthritis.

  • In people who were overweight, diabetic, and hypertensive, there was a higher prevalence of hand osteoarthritis when compared to people with none of these comorbid conditions.

The Conclusion

What does the increase in the prevalence of hand osteoarthritis which occurred in people who were overweight, diabetic, who also had high blood pressure tell us? Controlling those factors seems essential, especially at younger ages, when it can still make a difference to your health.

Do metabolic factors add to the effect of overweight on hand osteoarthritis? The Rotterdam Study. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. July 2007.

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