Objective: This review highlights the clinical and pathophysiologic features of osteoarthritis (OA) of the peripheral joints and discusses the current and future management options for this common but potentially disabling disease. This article also addresses the contribution of osteoarthritis to falls and functional impairment in older people.
Design: A critical assessment of current data regarding the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis, current and future therapies, and the potential role of OA in falls and functional impairment in older people.
Conclusions: Osteoarthritis is the most prevalent articular disease in older adults. Disease markers that will detect early disease and allow early intervention with pharmacologic agents that modify, if not halt, disease progression are much needed, but they are presently unavailable. Current management should include safe and adequate pain relief using systemic and local therapies and should also include medical and rehabilitative interventions to prevent, or at least compensate for, functional deficits. Although OA can result in impaired mobility and lower extremity function, its contribution as a cause of recurrent falls or impaired self-care, relative to other comorbid conditions, remains ill-defined. Further analysis of the determinants of disability, loss of mobility and falls in older patients with OA is needed.