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When does osteoarthritis typically occur in women?

Women and men of all ages can develop osteoarthritis, and approximately 27 million Americans over the age of 25 are diagnosed with osteoarthritis. That said, women over the age of 45 are at increased risk of developing the condition. Interestingly, more men than women experience osteoarthritis prior to age 45. The statistic flips after age 45, however, when more women than men experience osteoarthritis [source: NIAMS]. Women are more likely to experience osteoarthritis in the hands and knees compared to men. There are several explanations as to why women are at increased risk over the age of 45.

First, a woman's body is made differently than a man's body. Women have more elastic tendons than men. Elastic tendons results in more joint movement and less stability, leading to increased risk of injury and damage over time. Moreover, women tend to have wider hips than men. This results in the misalignment of the legs, putting women at greater risk of experiencing injury over the course of their life. Injury may predispose a woman to osteoarthritis later on [source: Everyday Health].

Second, there appears to be a gender-specific genetic link to osteoarthritis. In fact, hand and knee osteoarthritis have specific genetic links. This means that, genetically, women are at greater risk of developing osteoarthritis compared to men [source: Everyday Health].

Third, female hormones appear to be a significant factor. Before menopause, a woman's cartilage and joints are protected by estrogen, which protects cartilage from inflammation. After menopause, however, a woman's estrogen levels are low, resulting in joint inflammation, cartilage deterioration and eventually the onset of osteoarthritis [source: Everyday Health]. Other female-specific risk factors may also place women at greater risk of developing osteoarthritis in later life, including early puberty onset, giving birth to many children, and taking hormone replacement therapy [source: Everyday Health].