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HRT and Osteoarthritis of the Knee

More good news for women on hormone replacement therapy:  Australian researchers have shown that women who take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may get protection from osteoarthritis of the knee. While HRT has long been known to protect the bones, this new research suggests it may also protect the cartilage of the knee as well [Annals of Rheumatic Diseases, March 2001; 60:332-336]. 

Osteoarthritis develops when cartilage starts to break down, as a result of aging, trauma, or increased wear and tear; it affects millions of women.  In this study, the researchers found that the volume of knee cartilage was eight per cent greater in women who used HRT for five years or more than in women who did not use it.   This is consistent with other research showing that estrogen receptors are present in normal joints; this study suggests that estrogen loss may affect the normal working of the knee joint and that estrogen replacement may prevent that.

The joints most commonly affected by osteoarthritis are the hips, knees, lower spine, and hands.  This study only looked at the knee joint:  whether estrogen can help prevent osteoarthritis elsewhere will need to be addressed by other studies.

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Created: 5/3/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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