Arthritis and Obesity


September is The Arthritis Society of Canada’s Arthritis Awareness Month. Obesity increases the risk of developing osteoarthritis, and in all cases, obesity makes arthritis worse. Every pound of excess weight exerts about 4 pounds of extra pressure on the knees. So a person who is 10 pounds overweight has 40 pounds of extra pressure on his knees; if a person is 100 pounds overweight, that is 400 pounds of extra pressure on his knees. The percentage of arthritis cases attributable to obesity increased from 3% to 18% between 1971 and 2002.[1]

But it’s not just the extra weight on joints that’s causing damage. The fat itself is active tissue that creates and releases chemicals, many of which promote inflammation. Here are some brief facts on the effects of being overweight with various forms of arthritis[2]:

Obesity and Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis, OA, is characterized by the breakdown of cartilage – the flexible but tough connective tissue that covers the ends of bones at joints.

OA has a logical link to obesity: The more weight that’s on a joint, the more stressed the joint becomes, and the more likely it will wear down and be damaged.

Obesity and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis, RA, is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its own joint tissue. This creates inflammation throughout the body and can lead to joint erosion and pain.

The inflammatory chemicals released from fat that may increase the severity of RA.

“RA patients have a 50% higher cardiovascular mortality risk than the general population, so controlling cardiovascular risk factors is a priority in RA patients. You don’t want to have fat that increases your risk of heart disease,” says Jon Giles, MD, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of rheumatology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, in New York City.

Obesity and Gout

Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis that occurs when excess uric acid leads to the formation of uric acid crystals in the joints, triggering painful attacks. These are most common in the big toe but also occur elsewhere.

According to studies, about 70% of people with gout are overweight and 14% are obese. Being obese puts a person at a higher risk of developing gout – and of developing gout years earlier than someone of normal weight.

Obesity and Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis, PsA, is a type of inflammatory arthritis that affects up to 30 percent of people with psoriasis, an autoimmune condition that causes scaly and inflamed skin. Psoriasis usually precedes psoriatic arthritis.

According to studies, obesity is a risk factor for psoriasis. People with psoriasis are more likely than people without it to have a higher BMI and higher levels of the obesity-related hormone leptin. One of the first studies to look at the link between psoriasis and the development of PsA found that psoriasis patients who are obese at age 18 had triple the risk of developing PsA than those with a normal BMI – and they developed PsA earlier in life.

If you are overweight or obese and have arthritis, bariatric surgery may be able to help improve or alleviate some of your symptoms. Call a SmartShape Program Advisor today and book a Surgeon consult, to see if you could be helped by one of our procedures. Call today at (888) 278-7952 or book online through our website here.

Results may vary.