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Australians are at greater risk of osteoarthritis

Photo: Aussies at greater risk of osteoarthritis
A study has found Australia has among the highest rates of osteoarthritis, with cases predicted to keep rising as we get both larger and live longer.

Australia has among the highest rates of osteoarthritis in the world, with the number of people suffering from the debilitating disease expected to rise as we keep living longer.

More than 300 million people worldwide have osteoarthritis in the hip and knee, according to a new study.

The degenerative disease is caused when protective tissue cushioning the ends of bones wears down, gradually worsening over time.

The larger joints are most vulnerable but osteoarthritis can also effect other bones, including the spine.
Researchers compared health data from 195 countries and found the disease is most prevalent among more affluent regions, including the US, Australia, North Africa and the Middle East.

It also strikes women more than men, with cases rising to peak between 55 and 59 years of age.

There were nearly 15 million new knee and hip cases worldwide in 2017, an increase of more than eight per cent since 1990.

Researchers warn the disease represents a "major public health challenge" with cases to boom as major risk factors, such as age, joint injury and obesity, grow.

"Although there is variation between countries in prevalence, incidence ... its burden is increasing in most countries, especially among women," the study says.

The pain and lack of mobility experienced by osteoarthritis sufferers can lead to profound physical disability.

Disability rates have increased 10 per cent since 1990, when the collection of global disease burden data first began.

Globally, the combined length of time people lived with an arthritis-linked disability over a year in 2017 was equal to about 9.6 million years.

And people spent more of their lives with a disability if they resided in the USA, Asia Pacific or Australasian regions, where they were also likely to live longer and be overweight.

Researchers say reducing the burden of osteoarthritis will require better knowledge of risk factors along with earlier intervention and treatment, "together with the improvement of healthcare infrastructure for managing the increasing number of patients with the condition".

They called for the collection of more population data to monitor the disease burden and measure improvements.

Published online in the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, the international study was sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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