In a new study, researchers found that the health-related quality of life of most people who have had or have a higher risk of knee osteoarthritis remained unchanged over an eight-year trajectory.
Worsening of quality of life was linked to several factors, including being female, obesity, smoking, knee pain and lower-income, and it also reflected the patient’s need for treatment.
The research was conducted by a team from the University of Eastern Finland.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis and one of the most disabling diseases.
While the root cause of osteoarthritis remains unknown, aging, obesity and joint injuries have been found to be major risk factors.
It is estimated that knee osteoarthritis affects more than 10% of individuals aged over 60 years.
The societal burden is made up of different costs, for example, joint replacement surgeries, sickness benefits, and disability pensions.
At an individual level, joint pain, activity limitations and worsening of quality of life are major consequences of knee osteoarthritis.
In the new study, the team focused on changes in the health-related quality of life in individuals with mild or moderate knee OA as well as in individuals at an increased risk of knee OA.
The study participants were divided into groups on the basis of changes occurring in their quality of life during an eight-year follow-up.
The team found 63% of the study participants belonged in the “no change” group that experienced no worsening in their quality of life.
The quality of life worsened “slowly” in 17.1% of the study participants and “rapidly” in 9.5%. Only 10.4% experienced their quality of life as “improving”.
The team found female gender, higher body mass index, smoking, knee pain and lower-income at baseline were linked to rapidly worsening quality of life.
Furthermore, the use of pain medications was lowest in the “no change” group, where 22-32% of the participants reported pain medication use.
In other groups, 29-45% of the participants reported pain medication use.
The findings show that the health-related quality of life trajectory in people with knee osteoarthritis varies from one patient group to the next.
They can help to identify patients with knee OA who are at risk of worsening quality of life and who could benefit from early treatment.
The researchers suggest increasing attention should be paid on patients’ subjective experience of their health-related quality of life.
The study is published in PLOS ONE.
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