A large-scale study published in the journal Menopause shows that women receiving hormone replacement therapy had a significantly lower prevalence of symptomatic knee osteoarthritis compared with women who did not take hormones.
Because oestrogen has an anti-inflammatory effect at high concentrations, it has been hypothesised that hormone changes in women, especially decreasing oestrogen levels, may lead to an increase in osteoarthritis after menopause.
The most common treatments for knee osteoarthritis include surgery or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, both of which are associated with risks such as surgical complications or gastrointestinal disorders.
Several small studies have shown that hormone therapy not only reduces histologic changes in the cartilage involved in osteoarthritis, but it also reduces the chronic pain. To date, however, no large-scale studies have examined symptomatic knee osteoarthritis and HT.
For the current study, Jae Hyun Jung, MD, Korea University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea, and colleagues analysed data from 4,766 postmenopausal women from the Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2009-2012).
Hormone therapy was defined as regular hormone medication for ≥1 year. Knee osteoarthritis was defined according to symptoms and radiographic findings.
In the multiple logistic regression models, the knee osteoarthritis odds ratio was 0.70 for the hormone therapy group compared with women who did not take hormone therapy.
The authors noted that additional research is warranted to adjust for such other variables such as age and body mass index.
“Past and current users of hormone therapy had a lower prevalence of knee joint osteoarthritis, suggesting that hormone therapy may be protective against knee osteoarthritis,” said JoAnn Pinkerton, North American Menopause Society, Cleveland, Ohio. “This study suggests that oestrogen taken at menopause may inhibit cartilage damage and reduce knee deterioration seen on x-rays.”