Purpose: To quantify the prevalence of radiographic hand osteoarthritis (OA) among a group of community-dwelling individuals. Joint-specific prevalence rates/100 of radiographic OA of the hand were quantified and reported by age, gender, and dominant hand.
Methods: Data from a community-based, longitudinal study designed to follow the natural history of OA were used. Participants were ambulatory men and women, ages 40 years and older, with and without radiographic hand OA (N = 3327). Bilateral hand OA was examined at three joints: second distal interphalangeal joints (DIP), third proximal interphalangeal joints (PIP), and first carpometacarpal joint of the thumb (CMC). The ordinal scale of Kellgren and Lawrence (0-4) was used to determine OA status (grades 2+).
Results: Radiographic hand OA status was determined for all persons in the study group comprised of 2302 women (69%) and 1025 men (31%). The sample sizes for the age groups (years) were 532 (40-49), 905 (50-59), 998 (60-69), 749 (70-79), and 143 (80+). Overall, the DIP joint demonstrated the highest OA prevalence, while the PIP joint showed the lowest prevalence. Joint-specific hand OA prevalence rates for second DIP, third PIP, and first CMC were 35%, 18%, and 21%, respectively. Expectedly, hand OA prevalence for all joints increased with age. With exceptions, women demonstrated higher hand OA prevalence rates for the three sites examined. However, among men aged 40-49, the second DIP joint OA rate was higher (13%) compared with women (8%). Additionally, men in that age group demonstrated an elevated first CMC joint OA rate (9%) compared with women (5%). Gender-specific hand dominance analyses demonstrated that the majority of individuals with unilateral second DIP or third PIP OA presented in their dominant hand. However, among those with unilateral first CMC OA, both genders displayed a tendency to present in their nondominant hand.
Conclusion: These findings suggest the need for further investigation of the role gender can play in the development of hand OA in populations under 60 years of age. Additional epidemiological studies addressing hand OA will serve to bridge the gap between the current levels of knowledge about the knee and the hand. The disease burden of hand OA affects a large percentage of the population. Research efforts that more exhaustively characterize the prevalence of hand OA may contribute toward interventions that, ultimately, impact a rapidly growing segment of our population.