Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common cause of walking-related disability among older adults in the United States, and the prevalence and incidence of OA are increasing rapidly. Systemic and local risk factors for knee OA have been identified, and obesity and joint injury appear to be the strongest risk factors that are both modifiable and have the potential for substantial impact on a population level. The risk factors for functional decline and disability in persons with symptomatic OA have been examined in relatively few studies. The course of functional decline in persons with symptomatic OA on a population level is generally one of stable to slowly deteriorating function, but on an individual level, many patients maintain function or improve during the first 3 years of follow-up. Obesity stands out as one of few modifiable risk factors of OA that also is a potentially modifiable predictor of functional decline. Physical activity also appears to have a substantial protective impact on future OA-related disability. Further epidemiologic studies and randomized controlled trials are needed to prioritize prevention through targeting these modifiable risk factors for OA and related disability.
Copyright © 2012 American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.