An examination of data from participants in the 1999 to 2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) reveals findings regarding the prevalence of arthritis, according to researchers from Florida Atlantic University.

The survey participant examination reveals that while the prevalence of osteoarthritis (OA) has more than doubled over time, the prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has declined. In addition, although obesity is suggested as a risk factor for arthritis, the prevalence of obese people with all types of arthritis has decreased significantly.

These results are based on nationally representative NHANES data from 43,706 participants aged 20 years and older. NHANES is a program of studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designed to assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the United States, according to a media release from Florida Atlantic University.

The results of the study are published in the Journal of Public Health.

Other findings show that the increase in OA prevalence was significant in both men and women; in non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks, and Hispanics; and in people with high socioeconomic status. The decrease in prevalence of RA was more pronounced in men, non-Hispanic blacks, and participants with low income or those who were obese.

Hispanic and non-Hispanic blacks were less likely than non-Hispanic whites to have arthritis, possibly attributable to lack of adequate health care for correct diagnosis. Non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics are more likely than non-Hispanic whites to use self-care or alternative or complementary medicine and are less likely to receive traditional medical care. OA was more common in older white women. Age-related degeneration and hormonal changes (lower estrogen levels associated with increased risk for OA pain in women) may explain this finding, the release explains.

“The increase in osteoarthritis with age is a consequence of cumulative exposure to risk factors and biological changes such as oxidative damage, thinning of cartilage or muscle weakness,” says JuYoung Park, PhD, lead author of the study and associate professor in the Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work within FAU’s College for Design and Social Inquiry.

From 2010 to 2012, prevalence of arthritis was 22.7% and increased to 26.3% from 2013 to 2014. In the 16-year period, age-adjusted prevalence of RA decreased overall. The researchers surmise that it may be due to the introduction of effective drugs that have improved treatment regimens over the past 20 years and therefore decreased RA prevalence. However, during the same period, age-adjusted prevalence of OA increased in almost all subgroups, the release continues.

“Given the health and economic burden of arthritis, understanding prevalence trends is of significant public health interest,” Park adds.

“Because of these burdens, developing cost-saving and effective treatments are necessary to minimize arthritis symptoms, maximize functional capacity, reduce disability and moreover, improve the quality of life for the more than 350 million people worldwide who are affected by arthritis.”

[Source(s): Florida Atlantic University, Newswise]