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Who Is Affected by Osteoarthritis?

Topic Overview

Osteoarthritis occurs throughout the world and in all population groups. Osteoarthritis is equally common in men and women, but women tend to develop symptoms earlier. People may either have symptoms of osteoarthritis or have evidence of osteoarthritis on an X-ray.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, and it is a major reason people become disabled and dependent on others as they get older.1

  • In the general population, many people have osteoarthritis that is evident on X-rays, although not all of these people have symptoms. X-rays of people older than 45 show:
    • 90 out of 100 have changes such as those seen in arthritis in the hands.
    • 37 out of 100 have changes in the knees.
    • 27 out of 100 have changes in the hips.
  • But these changes on X-ray don't always mean there are symptoms of osteoarthritis. In people older than 45:
    • Only 17 out of 100 notice symptoms in their hands.
    • Only 9 out of 100 have symptoms in their hips.
  • About 66 out of 100 people will have symptoms of osteoarthritis in their knees sometime in their lives. The risk is highest for people who are overweight or have other risk factors for osteoarthritis.

Although age itself is not a cause of osteoarthritis, the chances of getting it increase significantly as people get older.

Related Information



  1. Wise C (2010). Osteoarthritis. In DC Dale, DD Federman, eds., ACP Medicine, section 15, chap. 10. New York: WebMD.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Stanford M. Shoor, MD - Rheumatology
Last Revised April 8, 2011

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