Objective: To characterize the pattern of involvement of osteoarthritis (OA) of the hand among men and women of the same age.
Methods: Structured hand examinations were performed on 1,467 men and 1,519 women who were age 53 years and born in England, Scotland, or Wales during the first week of March 1946 (identified through the United Kingdom National Survey of Health and Development). OA at each joint site was characterized using a previously validated examination schedule. The interrelationship of involvement of different hand joints was analyzed by logistic regression and cluster analyses.
Results: There was clear evidence of polyarticular involvement in the hand joints of both the men and the women. Among the women, 161 subjects had >/=4 joints involved, compared with only 41 subjects expected in this category (P < 0.001). Among the men, 87 subjects were observed to have >/=4 joints involved, in contrast with only 7 subjects expected (P < 0.001). The pattern of hand joint involvement (characterized by clustering primarily by row and symmetric joint involvement, rather than clustering by ray) was found to be almost identical between the men and the women.
Conclusion: This study confirms the existence of a polyarticular subset of OA among men that has characteristics similar to those of the variant observed among women. The data suggest that the genetic or metabolic influences underlying this particular variant of OA acts similarly in both sexes.