A Mayo Clinic orthopedic surgeon suspects that the nagging pain and inflammation that women can experience in their knees may be different from what men encounter, and she has been chosen to lead a novel U.S.-Canadian study to explore the question. The Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR) has awarded a group of researchers a grant to lead a pilot project to understand whether biological differences between men and women affect the incidence and severity of knee osteoarthritis. Mary I. O’Connor, M.D., chair of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Mayo Clinic’s campus in Florida, will be the study’s principal investigator.

Osteoarthritis, characterized by the breakdown of cartilage in the joint resulting in stiffness and pain, is the most common form of arthritis. It affects approximately 27 million Americans.

“Knee osteoarthritis is a leading cause of disability in the U.S. and women have greater pain and reductions in function and quality of life from this condition than do men,” Dr. O’Connor says. “Knee osteoarthritis is also more common in women than men.”

While the underlying mechanisms for differences in knee osteoarthritis between men and women are not yet known, recent studies have indicated sex differences at the cellular and molecular levels may influence development of the disease, she says. Answers could provide valuable clues for more effective treatment and possible prevention, Dr. O’Connor says.

The study will examine a variety of human tissues normally discarded during total knee replacement surgery that is performed for severe osteoarthritis. The tissues will be analyzed for possible differences in pain fibers and hormone and vitamin D receptors between female and male patients.

“Our study will be the first to explore if there are true biological differences which result in women having this increased disease burden,” Dr. O’Connor says.

Source: Mayo Clinic.

NOTE:   Another study being conducted at Northwestern University is also looking at knee osteoarthritis progression from structural a perspective, e.g., hip muscle strength and knee instability.    See our earlier blog on this study by clicking HERE.



Very interesting findings. I guess this is yet another finding that demonstrates that illnesses in women can differ from the same illnesses in men. Another prime example is the differences in heart attacks where by women have a much lower rate of detection of heart disease in the early stages as men do. Thanks for providing such a good read.

Excellent post and very informative. Considering the fact that approximately 60% of the 27 million osteoarthritis sufferers in America are women, we should look into the factors causing them. Women are biologically more prone to osteoarthritis than men as an early puberty, early motherhood and bearing many children have a major role to play in this according to experts. Hormonal factor has also to be taken as a cause. Genetic link is reported to be be more common among women than men, so there too we have a reason. Add to all these the latest and the most important problem of obesity found among American women and one can understand the reasons for the increase in occurrence of osteoarthritis among women more than in men. A very thought-provoking article. Thanks for sharing! Do post the outcome of the study that you have mentioned about. Cheers Yvonne

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I find it interesting that there are differences in the symptoms of osteoarthritis in men and women - especially as both myself and my wife suffer from osteoarthritis of the neck - cervical spondylosis. I wonder, are there any clinical studies to suggest the same differences apply to cervical spondylosis?