Objective: There is some evidence that atherosclerosis may contribute to the initiation or progression of osteoarthritis (OA). To test this hypothesis, we compared the presence and severity of hand osteoarthritis (HOA) with markers of atherosclerotic vascular disease in an elderly population.
Patients and Methods: The AGES-Reykjavik Study is a population-based multidisciplinary study of aging in the elderly population of Reykjavik. In a study of 2264 males, mean age 76 + 6, and 3078 females, mean age 76 + 6, we compared HOA severity, scored from photographs, with measures of atherosclerosis. These included carotid intimal thickness and plaque severity, coronary and aortic calcifications, and reported cardiac and cerebrovascular events.
Results: After adjustment for confounders, both carotid plaque severity (CPs), and coronary calcifications (CAC), were significantly associated with HOA in females with an odds ratio of 1.42 (1.14-1.76, p=0.0016) for having coronary calcifications, and 1.25 (1.04-1.49, p=0.0159) for having moderate or severe carotid plaques. Both CPs and CAC also exhibited significant linear trends in relation to HOA severity in females in the whole AGES-Reykjavik cohort (p=0.00002 and p=0.027 respectively for trend). No significant associations were seen in males.Despite this evidence of increased atherosclerosis, females with HOA did not report proportionally more previous cardiovascular or cerebrovascular events.
Conclusions: Our results indicate a linear association between the severity of HOA and atherosclerosis in older females. Thus, the pathological process of HOA seems to have some components in common with atherosclerosis. Prospective studies may help elucidating possible mechanisms of this relationship.