Hand osteoarthritis: an epidemiological perspective

Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2010 Jun;39(6):465-76. doi: 10.1016/j.semarthrit.2009.03.001. Epub 2009 May 31.


Objectives: Hand osteoarthritis (OA) is a highly prevalent condition with a wide spectrum of clinical presentations. We review herein the prevalence, impact on hand function, and various risk factors related to hand OA.

Methods: PubMed and MEDLINE databases (1950-2009) were searched for the keywords: "hand," "hand osteoarthritis," "distal interphalangeal," "proximal interphalangeal," "metacarpophalangeal," and "carpometacarpal." Published material emphasizing cohort, cross-sectional, and case-control studies regarding epidemiology, clinical features, functional impairment, and associated risk factors of hand OA were included.

Results: Hand OA is a heterogeneous, age- and gender-dependent disorder, occurring more frequently in women over 50 years of age. In the elderly population, the prevalence of radiographic hand OA can reach 80%. OA has a strong genetic predisposition, apparently gender- and phenotype-specific. A history of heavy manual labor or a repetitive use of the hand also has been linked to OA. Other variables such as weight, smoking, joint hyperlaxity, age of menarche, bone and cartilage mineralization factors, grip strength, and handedness may play a role. Symptomatic hand OA may cause functional impairment due to loss of strength, thus limiting the individual's ability to perform daily tasks.

Conclusions: Several risk factors for hand OA have been identified; however, their interrelationship is not clearly understood. The development of preventive strategies and future research goals is needed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Databases, Bibliographic
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Female
  • Hand Joints / diagnostic imaging*
  • Hand Joints / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis / epidemiology*
  • Osteoarthritis / etiology
  • Osteoarthritis / physiopathology
  • Prevalence
  • Radiography
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors