Transitions to mobility difficulty associated with lower extremity osteoarthritis in high functioning older women: Longitudinal data from the Women's Health and Aging Study II

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To assess the impact of lower extremity osteoarthritis (OA) on transitions to mobility difficulty, and to assess the influence of pain, excess weight, and quadriceps strength on these transitions.


We analyzed longitudinal data acquired from 199 participants in the Women's Health and Aging Study II (ages 70–79 years) who initially reported no lower extremity limitation (e.g., difficulty walking one-quarter mile) or difficulty in activities of daily living (ADL; e.g., transferring). Prevalent lower extremity OA was determined from validated algorithms encompassing multiple data sources. Markov transition models were created to analyze the first transition from no difficulty at baseline to lower extremity limitations, ADL difficulty, or both 18, 36, and 72 months later.


Compared with women without OA (n = 140), a higher proportion of women with lower extremity OA (n = 59) initially reported pain on most days and more severe pain while walking (P < 0.05). Women with OA were also heavier, with a higher proportion being obese or overweight (P < 0.001). Lower extremity OA, higher body mass index, and lower knee extensor strength independently increased the risk of transition to combined lower extremity and ADL difficulty first over 72 months.


Lower extremity OA increased the likelihood of developing difficulty in both lower extremity tasks and ADL over 72 months in a cohort of initially high functioning older women. Two modifiable factors, higher relative weight and lower knee extensor strength, substantially impacted these transitions, and therefore warrant increased attention in the management of lower extremity OA.

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