Researchers at Duke Health have published a study showing knee osteoarthritis can be predicted in women with a blood test up to eight years before it can be detected by X-ray.

Osteoarthritis is a joint disease caused by a combination of cartilage wearing away, bone thickening and inflammation, and can cause debilitating pain for those affected.

Dr. Virginia Byers Kraus, a professor of rheumatology at the Duke University Medical Center, is the senior author on the study. She said the test works by detecting a unique immune response associated with osteoarthritis.

“It’s actually telling about joint damage and very low-grade inflammation that’s typical for osteoarthritis, that is identifying these at-risk people,” Kraus said.

While there isn’t a cure for osteoarthritis, preventative measures can slow progression of the disease. Kraus said implementing this blood test in a clinical setting would be more effective if it could be detected earlier.

“There’s not as much change, not as much damage, the disability isn’t there yet,” she said. “So, everybody in the field agrees that if you could treat it earlier, it could be much easier.”

While not yet available for clinical use, Kraus said the blood test could someday be used to screen people earlier in their lives and identify more people who would benefit from preventive interventions. [source]