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Does hormone therapy for menopause prevent knee osteoarthritis?

A recent study carried out by researchers in Korea investigated the effects of hormone therapy for menopause on the prevalence of knee osteoarthritis.

One of the most frequent musculoskeletal disorders in the older population is osteoarthritis (OA), and it results in high levels of pain and physical disability. OA primarily occurs due to the ‘wearing down’ of the flexible tissue at the ends of the bones as a result of aging.

The occurrence of OA is higher in women than in men and is particularly high in women after menopause.  Many argue that the hormonal changes, especially the decrease in estrogen, after menopause is the reason why the rates of OA are higher in this demographic. High levels of estrogen produce anti-inflammatory and bone-protective effects, and hormone therapy for menopause has been shown to help with the symptoms resulting from lack of estrogen.

Numerous small studies have been conducted and have demonstrated that hormone therapy decreases the changes in the cartilage involved in OA, and it decreases chronic pain in these patients. However, no large study had been carried out examining symptomatic knee OA and hormone therapy. The researchers of this recent large-scale study, published in The Journal of the North American Menopause Society, thus sought to examine the effects of hormone therapy for menopause on the development of OA.

They examined data from 4,766 postmenopausal women from the Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey which took place between 2009 and 2012. The survey was managed by the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The results of this study showed that the occurrence of OA was significantly decreased in those individuals using hormone therapy compared to those who were not. Due to the fact that this type of study (a cross-sectional study) prevents conclusions regarding cause-and-effect relationships, the researchers of this study stress the need for further research on this topic to adjust for variables such as age and body mass index.

Written by Jade Marie Evans, MPharm, Medical Writer

References:

  1. Jung , J.H. et al 2019. The Journal of the North American Menopause Society. [Online]. [17 January 2019]. Available from:https://journals.lww.com/menopausejournal/Abstract/publishahead/Knee_osteoarthritis_and_menopausal_hormone_therapy.97442.aspx
  2. Eurekalert . 2019. Hormone therapy may be best defense against knee osteoarthritis. [Online]. [17 January 2019]. Available from: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-01/tnam-htm010819.php
Jade Evans MPharm
Jade Evans MPharm
Jade obtained her Master of Pharmacy degree from Cardiff University, UK in 2015 and then went on to work as a Pharmacist within the NHS, across both the hospital and community sectors. In 2017, she began her work for the medical news bulletin and moved to Perth, Australia. She is now working at Perth Children’s Hospital working in the Anaesthetic and Pain Management Research Group.
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