Dr. Scanzello also thinks doctors will pay attention to the high rate of spine OA in this research – because it was the most common type of OA in the entire study group, present in 62 percent of participants. She says that is important. That was followed by 42 percent with knee OA, 36 percent with hip OA and 32 percent with hand OA.

“We study knee and hip OA quite often and hand OA more often than just 10 years ago. But research studies focusing on spine OA are relatively few and far between,” Dr. Scanzello says.

Dr. Scanzello says she thinks this information will broaden the definitions used in research to categorize patients with osteoarthritis. “These [African-American] patients would have been excluded from strict studies of generalized OA using a definition based on hand involvement,” Dr. Scanzello explains. While there is no standard definition for generalized OA, the definition is often thought of as OA of the hands with nodal changes and involvement in some other joint, such as in the knee, back or feet. Dr. Nelson says many other definitions have been proposed but none is generally accepted.

While this is a research study and she says it isn’t directly translatable to practice, Dr. Nelson says she does hope over time the medical community will be on the lookout for OA in a variety of joints when diagnosing the condition in African-Americans.

“It would be nice if they looked at multiple joints – not just the joint that brought [the patient] in,” Dr. Nelson says. “They might have a different pattern and multiple, large-joint involvement, and there may be treatment interventions that could be directed at multiple joints if it were recognized.”

Although there is no treatment to cure or halt progression in OA, Dr. Nelson says education, weight loss, exercise and other similar measures can impact pain and quality of life. “Such measures might be recommended to someone more strongly if they were found to have OA in multiple, rather than a single, joint,” Dr. Nelson says.