Aims/hypothesis — This study examined the relationship between hip/knee osteoarthritis and incident diabetes. We hypothesised that hip/knee osteoarthritis would be independently related to an increased risk of incident diabetes and that this relationship would be due, at least in part, to walking difficulty. We also hypothesised a stronger relationship with incident diabetes for knee than hip osteoarthritis because of the higher prevalence in the former of obesity/the metabolic syndrome.
Methods — A population cohort aged ≥55 years recruited from 1996 to 1998 was followed through provincial health administrative data to 2014. Participants with baseline diabetes were excluded. Hip/knee osteoarthritis was defined as swelling, pain or stiffness in any joint lasting 6 weeks in the past 3 months and indication on a joint homunculus that a hip/knee was 'troublesome'. Walking limitation was defined as self-reported difficulty standing or walking in the last 3 months (yes/no). Using Cox regressions, we examined the relationship of baseline hip/knee osteoarthritis with incident diabetes as defined from health administrative data, controlling for age, sex, BMI, income, prior hypertension, cardiovascular disease and primary care exposure. We tested whether the observed effect was mediated through walking limitation.
Results — In total, 16,362 participants were included: median age 68 years and 61% female. Of these, 1637 (10%) individuals met the criteria for hip osteoarthritis, 2431 (15%) for knee osteoarthritis and 3908 (24%) for walking limitation. Over a median follow-up of 13.5 years (interquartile range 7.3-17.8), 3539 individuals (22%) developed diabetes. Controlling for confounders, a significant relationship was observed between number of hip/knee joints with osteoarthritis and incident diabetes: HR for two vs no osteoarthritic hips 1.25 (95% CI 1.08, 1.44); HR for two vs no osteoarthritic knees 1.16 (95% CI 1.04, 1.29). From 37% to 46% of this relationship was explained by baseline walking limitation.
Conclusions/interpretation — In a large population cohort aged ≥55 years who were free of diabetes at baseline, and controlling for confounders, the presence and burden of hip/knee osteoarthritis was a significant independent predictor of incident diabetes. This association was partially explained by walking limitation. Increased attention to osteoarthritis and osteoarthritis-related functional limitations has the potential to reduce diabetes risk.