Sunday, November 26, 2006

Uneven Leg Length May Boost Arthritis Risk

(HealthDay News) -- People whose legs are of uneven lengths are at increased odds for knee and hip osteoarthritis, U.S. research suggests.

The study concluded that a leg length difference of as little as two centimeters (about 4/5ths of an inch) could raise osteoarthritis risk.

Researchers studied 3,161 people enrolled in the Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project in North Carolina.

They found that 6.4 percent of them had legs of different lengths. Differences in leg length occurred with equal frequency in men and women and in blacks and whites.

Compared to people with legs of equal length, those with leg length differences of two centimeters or more were more likely to develop hip osteoarthritis (32.5 percent vs. 26.1 percent) and knee osteoarthritis (45.3 percent vs. 29 percent) and were more likely to have severe disease, the study found.

The actual location of osteoarthritis did not seem to be associated with either the longer or shorter limb, although right hip osteoarthritis was more common in people whose left leg was longer than in those with a longer right leg.

"Recognizing that leg length inequality has a significant association with hip and particularly knee osteoarthritis opens the door to more studies on whether leg length variances might cause the development and progression of the disease," senior investigator Dr. Joanne M. Jordan, associate professor of medicine and orthopedics at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, said in a prepared statement.

"The findings from this study may help us predict who may develop osteoarthritis and who may have symptoms that worsen or have a potential risk of increased disability. Studies to test whether correction of leg length inequality with orthotics or shoe lifts can prevent the onset of osteoarthritis, or its progression, would be a logical next step," Jordan said.

The findings were presented recently at the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Rheumatology, in Washington, D.C.

More information
The U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has more about osteoarthritis.

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