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Arthritis Health Center

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Having Shorter Leg Ups Arthritis Risk

Study Shows Even Small Difference in Leg Length Increases Disease Risk and Severity
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 14, 2006 (Washington, D.C.) -- Having one leg shorter than the other may increase a person's risk of developing arthritis in a knee or hip, according to a study presented today at the American College of Rheumatology's 2006 annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

People with a leg length difference of as little as 2 centimeters -- four-fifths of an inch -- were more likely to have osteoarthritis in their right hip or their left or right knee. They were also more likely to have more severe arthritis, the study showed.

Often referred to as the "wear-and-tear" form of the disease, osteoarthritis (OA) affects nearly 21 million people in the U.S.

It is characterized by the breakdown of the joints' cartilage, the lining that cushions the ends of bones and allows for easy joint movement.

Breakdown of this cartilage leaves the bones to rub against each other, resulting in pain, stiffness, and loss of movement in the affected joint, according to the Atlanta-based Arthritis Foundation.

"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," study researcher Joanne M. Jordan, MD, MPH, says in a news release.

"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," adds Jordan, who is an associate professor of medicine and orthopaedics at the University of North Carolina Thurston Arthritis Research Center in Chapel Hill.

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