People with asthma or eczema are at an increased risk of developing osteoarthritis, a new study reveals.

The study published in the Annals of Rheumatic Disease Monday further suggested the possibility of an allergic pathway in the development of Osteoarthritis that can be targeted with existing drugs.

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis that takes place when the protective cartilage cushioning the ends of the bones wears down over time. Around 50 million people in the U.S. suffer from Osteoarthritis. Common symptoms of the disorder include pain, stiffness, swelling tenderness and loss of flexibility.

Although the damage to the cartilage cannot be reversed, medics recommend patients stay active, maintain a healthy weight and take treatments to slow down the progression of the disease.

Findings of the research

Osteoarthritis was believed to be developed from the wear and tear of cartilage until a study published in 2019 suggested that it could be caused by allergic inflammation.

Matthew Baker, MD and assistant professor of immunology and rheumatology, and other researchers decided to further investigate the link by retroactively tracking those with atopic disease from insurance claim data, focusing on asthma and eczema.

For the study, they selected people who had no osteoarthritis for two years and were later diagnosed with asthma or eczema to form a control group. They also followed patients who also had two years without osteoarthritis and any diagnosis of asthma or eczema later.

Patients were then matched with those in the control group who had similar demographics, outpatient visit frequency and other factors to see who developed osteoarthritis.

According to the research results, patients with asthma or eczema are at a 58% increased risk of developing osteoarthritis over about 10 years. If they happen to have both conditions, the risk of developing osteoarthritis increased to 115%.

"Our findings provide the foundation for future interventional studies that could identify the first treatment to reduce the progression of osteoarthritis," Baker, the lead author of the study, said.

The study also found that asthma patients had an 83% increased risk of developing osteoarthritis when compared with patients who suffer from other Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases. This finding suggested that a lung disease without an allergic response does not activate the allergic pathway critical factor for developing osteoarthritis.

The existing medications that inhibit allergic cytokines and mast cells for asthma attacks and mast cell activation syndrome could be possibly used for treating osteoarthritis, Baker said.

"We now have a strong basis for studying this as an intervention, to see if targeting pathways like inhibiting mast cells or allergic cytokines can actually reduce the development and, or progression of osteoarthritis," Baker added.

The study found that patients with asthma or eczema are at a 58% increased risk of developing osteoarthritis over about 10 years. pixabay