, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 264-269

Racial variations in self-reported osteoarthritis symptom severity among veterans

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Abstract

Background and aims: This study aimed at examining factors related to osteoarthritis (OA) symptom severity in African American and Caucasian veterans (n=202). Methods: OA symptom severity (lower extremity pain, stiffness, and physical function) was measured by the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC). We also examined whether racial differences existed when controlling for other important demographic and clinical variables, including age, gender, income, educational level, employment status, marital status, number of years with OA symptoms, location of arthritic joints (hip, knee, back, foot/ankle), use of exercise, and current use of OA medications. Lastly, we examined whether factors associated with self-reported OA symptom severity differed in African American and Caucasian veterans. Results: The mean WOMAC score for AfricanAmerican veterans (on a scale of 0–96) was 54.6 (SD=17.2), and the mean score for Caucasian veterans was 48.4 (SD=17.6; p=0.02). In a multivariable regression model including demographic and clinical variables, African American veterans had significantly higher WOMAC scores than Caucasians (β=0.185, p=0.009). In Caucasian veterans, greater number of years with OA, presence of hip OA, and a low income were associated with greater WOMAC scores. In African Americans, no use of exercise and the presence of OA in the hip or back were associated with greater WOMAC scores. Conclusions: Among this sample of veterans, African Americans had significantly higher WOMAC scores than Caucasians after controlling for other important demographic and clinical factors. Different and more intense treatment strategies may be needed for African American veterans with OA.