Broken Bones Don't Discriminate

Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis patients have increased risk of bone fractures

September 8, 2011 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) What is true for one type of arthritis is not necessarily true for another type. For example, broken bones have been linked to rheumatoid arthritis for years but not to osteoarthritis. However, new research may change this.

Women with either osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis have an increased risk of fractures (broken bones) compared to women without arthritis.

"Watch out for fractures if you have arthritis."

This study - which was conducted by Zhao Chen, Ph.D., from the Mel and Enid Zuckerman and colleagues at the  College of Public Health at the University of Arizona - improves the understanding of the link between arthritis and the risk of fractures.

Rheumatoid arthritis - an inflammatory disease that affects the joints - is already a known risk factor for osteoporosis (weakened bones) and fractures. However, osteoarthritis has not been linked to an increased risk of fractures. In fact, it was once thought to protect against broken bones.

According to the findings made by Chen and her fellow researchers, osteoarthritis patients actually do have an increased risk of fractures, albeit not as much risk as rheumatoid arthritis patients.

Chen and colleagues found that women with rheumatoid arthritis have an increased risk of all types of fractures, compared to women without arthritis.

Women with osteoarthritis did not have as much of an increased risk as those with rheumatoid arthritis, but they still had an increased risk of total fractures and spine fractures. They did not have an increased risk of hip fractures.

The study's authors conclude that these findings express the need for more fracture prevention in people with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Arthritis patients, including those with osteoarthritis, should be taught bone health strategies.

The researchers came to these conclusions by studying data from the Women's Health Initiative. They looked at 63,402 women with osteoarthritis and 960 women with rheumatoid arthritis. They compared these women to 83,295 women without any form of arthritis. The researchers followed all of these women for almost eight years, recording any fractures that happened to any of the women.

The whole study - which was supported by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) - appears in the Journal of Rheumatology.

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Review Date: 
September 6, 2011
Last Updated:
September 21, 2011