The study suggests that treatments for allergic reactions could help decrease the risk of having joint problems.
A study conducted by researchers at Stanford University found a correlation between asthma and eczema, and the risk of developing osteoarthritis (OA). Lead investigator Matthew C. Baker, MD, MS, of Stanford University and colleagues found that those patients were 58 % (95% CI 55-62)more likely to develop osteoarthritis within the next 8 years, compared to those without allergies.1 Those with diagnoses of both were specifically found to be at a higher risk for OA, with an odds ratio of 2.15 (95% CI 1.93-2.39).compared with non-exposed patients and patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (AOR, 1.83; 95% CI, 1.73-1.95).
The study used the Optum database of medical insurance claims from 2003 to 2019, and electronic health records from the Stanford Research Repository (STARR) for the period 2010 to 2020, to target 117,346 patients with asthma or atopic dermatitis(average age 52; 60% women). 4,395 had both conditions.
About half of the patients with eczema also had allergic conditions such as hay fever, asthma, or food allergies, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
The authors acknowledge several limitations to the study, including the lack of information on the severity of atopic disease or osteoarthritis, the patients' histories of joint trauma and exercise habits and information about the severity of atopy or OA, and whether the patients used over-the-counter medications, which could have an influence on the findings.
Despite limitations, the researchers believe that this study shows an increased incidence of OA in patients with atopic diseases, such as asthma and eczema. The researchers also believe that future studies should evaluate possible interventions that target allergic pathways in the prevention and treatment of patients with osteoarthritis.
Baker stated “Our findings provide further support for the concept that allergic pathways may contribute to the development of [osteoarthritis]. If this is indeed true, non-atopic patients may also benefit from the use of treatments that inhibit mast cells and allergic cytokines to treat or prevent [osteoarthritis].”
The results of this retrospective cohort study were published in BMJ Open Epidemiological Science.
1. Baker M, Sheth K, Lu R, et al. Increased risk of osteoarthritis in patients with atopic disease. BMJ Open Epidemiological Science. 2023;27(3). doi.org/10.1136/ard-2022-223640