At least one in 11 Australians have osteoarthritis while the number of people needing joint replacements is growing due to an ageing population and obesity among other factors.
However, new Australian research is investigating ways to prevent crippling knee and hip osteoarthritis through early genetic testing.
Susan Geale, 59, needed a total knee replacement after suffering excruciating pain.
“My quality of life was nothing, I couldn’t walk from the front door to the letterbox,” Ms Geale said.
Ms Geale no longer needs painkillers, however she struggles walking.
“I can’t walk far,” she told 9News.
“Twenty to 30 per cent of people having knee replacements aren’t happy with the result,” Monash University Professor Flavia Cicuttini said.
Professor Cicuttini said there need to be methods to “delay surgery until it’s absolutely needed”.
This has sparked the newest research in developing a “risk score” based on an individual’s genetic data to predict their likelihood of needing a joint replacement surgery for osteoarthritis.
DNA samples were analysed from thousands of older participants involved in a long-term study on aspirin and ageing.
After isolating specific genetic variants, the research found those who had high-risk scores had a 44 per cent increased risk of having a knee replacement or an 88 per cent increased risk of needing a new hip, compared to those with lower scores.
“These risk scores we developed were independent of age, sex and obesity,” Professor Cicuttini said.
Researchers said having access to information on genetic risk before symptoms take hold has the potential to improve compliance with preventative strategies.
Ms Geale said this risk assessment could have changed her life.
“I could have adjusted my lifestyle, we all know about habits, healthy habits,” Ms Geale said.