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Sex Differences in Osteoarthritis Prevalence, Pain Perception, Physical Function and Therapeutics.

OBJECTIVE: Women have a higher prevalence of osteoarthritis (OA) and worse clinical courses than men. However, the underlying factors and therapeutic outcomes of these sex-specific differences are incompletely researched. This review examines the current state of knowledge regarding sex differences in OA prevalence, risk factors, pain severity, functional outcomes, and use and response to therapeutics.

METHODS: PubMed database was used with the title keyword combinations "{gender OR sex} AND osteoarthritis" plus additional manual search of the included papers for pertinent references, yielding 212 references. Additional references were added and 343 that were reviewed for appropriateness.

RESULTS: Globally, women account for 60% of people with osteoarthritis with a greater difference after age 40. The higher risk for women may be due to differences in joint anatomy, alignment, muscle strength, hormonal influences, obesity, and/or genetics. At the same radiographic severity, women have greater pain severity than men, which may be explained by biologically distinct pain pathways, differential activation of central pain pathways, differences in pain sensitivity, perception, reporting, and coping strategies. Women have greater limitations of physical function and performance than men independent of BMI, OA severity, injury history, amount of weekly exercise. Women also have greater use of analgesic medications than men but less use of arthroplasty and poorer prognosis after surgical interventions.

CONCLUSIONS: The recognition of sex differences in OA manifestations and management could guide tailoring of sex-specific treatment protocols, and analysis of sex as a biological variable in future research would enhance development of precision medicine.

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