SATURDAY, Nov. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Arthritis of the knee is striking Americans at younger ages, new research has found, but shedding a few pounds if you're overweight may reduce your risk.
The studies were to be presented Saturday at the American College of Rheumatology annual meeting, in Chicago.
Nearly 6.5 million Americans between the ages of 35 and 84 will receive a diagnosis of knee osteoarthritis in the next decade, according to these new projections.
"The diagnosis of knee osteoarthritis is occurring much earlier," said study author Dr. Elena Losina, co-director of the Orthopedics and Arthritis Center for Outcomes Research at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
When she compared the age at diagnosis in the 1990s to ages in the 2010s, "the average age at diagnosis has moved from 69 to 56," she said.
It strikes some earlier than the average age, of course. Losina found that adults aged 45 to 54 will account for nearly 5 percent of all knee osteoarthritis (OA) cases in the 2010s, while they represented only 1.5 percent of the knee OA patients in the 1990s.
Losina suspects that obesity and knee injuries, both of which have become more common in the past decade, may be helping to drive the increase in knee OA among younger people.
Injuries to the knee have been linked with an increased risk of knee arthritis. And certain sports are riskier than others, said another researcher, Dr. Jeffrey Driban, an assistant professor of rheumatology at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. He reviewed studies that looked at a link between sports participation and knee OA. He focused on 16 studies, and then honed in on 10 that looked at athletes and nonathletes.
While there were not great differences later in the amount of knee OA for former sports players and nonathletes, he did find a risk linked with the type of sport and level of participation.
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