Objective: To estimate the United States prevalence of symptomatic hand osteoarthritis using American College of Rheumatology (ACR) physical examination criteria.
Design: The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), a nationally representative cross-sectional health examination survey, performed upper-extremity physical examinations on a sample of United States adults age 60+ yrs. Data for demographics, pain history, analgesic use, and activity limitations were obtained by interview.
Results: Among United States adults, 58% had Heberden's nodes, 29.9% had Bouchard's nodes, and 18.2% had first carpal-metacarpal deformities. Women had significantly more first carpal-metacarpal deformities (24.3%) than men (10.3%). Symptomatic osteoarthritis prevalence at these sites was 5.4, 4.7, and 1.9%, respectively. Overall, symptomatic hand osteoarthritis prevalence by ACR criteria was 8% (95% CI 6.5-9.5%), or 2.9 million persons. Symptomatic hand osteoarthritis significantly increased with age and was decreased among non-Hispanic blacks, but there were no gender differences. Symptomatic hand osteoarthritis was associated with self-reported difficulty lifting 10 lbs (OR 2.31; 95% CI 1.23-4.33), dressing (OR 3.77; 95% CI 1.99-7.13), and eating (OR 3.44; 95% CI 1.76-6.73). Frequent monthly use was significantly increased for analgesics, especially acetaminophen, but not nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs.
Conclusion: Symptomatic hand osteoarthritis affects 1 in 12 older United States adults. NHANES III data provide a population-based assessment of the impact and associated functional impairments of symptomatic hand osteoarthritis.