Study finds that eczema and asthma are linked to the risk of osteoarthritis

According to a retrospective cohort study findings, those who have a history of atopic diseases  such as asthma and eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis) are substantially more likely to develop osteoarthritis (OA). This study was published in the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases

Dr. Baker and co-investigators found that subjects who were diagnosed with both asthma and atopic dermatitis had a particularly high risk of developing OA, with an odds ratio (OR) of 2.15. When 110,000 people with asthma or atopic dermatitis were compared to the same number of people without these illnesses, those with atopy reported a 58% higher chance of developing OA. Thus,  the incidence of OA was higher in patients with asthma or atopic dermatitis (26.9 per 1000 person-years) compared to non-exposed patients (19.1 per 1000 person-years) after propensity score matching, with an adjusted OR (aOR) of 1.58 for developing OA. When compared to non-exposed patients, this effect was even more pronounced in patients with both asthma and atopic dermatitis (aOR=2.15) and in patients with asthma alone compared to those who had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (aOR=1.83). 

These findings were replicated in an independent dataset, which included the additional depth of body mass index information. This retrospective cohort study was published in 2021 by the same authors, Dr. Baker and his team. The data was collected from Optum Clinformatics™ Data Mart and Stanford Research Repository (STARR). Patients with both asthma and atopic disease in the Optum cohort had 84% higher risk of developing OA compared to control patients without atopy (aOR 1.84; p<.001). In STARR, patients with asthma or atopic dermatitis had an aOR of 1.42 compared to non-exposed patients. According to this study, OA occurs more frequently in atopic illness patients than in the general population. 

These findings provide further evidence to support the hypothesis that allergy pathways may contribute to the development of OA. The implications of these findings are significant, as they suggest that targeting allergy pathways could potentially be a viable strategy for preventing and treating OA. Future interventional studies could explore this avenue further, which may have important implications for the management of OA in atopic patients.


  1. Baker MC, Sheth K, Lu R, Lu D, von Kaeppler EP, Bhat A, et al. Increased risk of osteoarthritis in patients with atopic disease. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. 2023 Mar 1.
  2. Baker M, Sheth K, Lu R, Lu D, von Kaeppler E, Bhat A, et al. Osteoarthritis Risk Is Increased in Patients with Atopic Disease. Arthritis Rheumatol. 2021; 73 (suppl 9). Accessed April 12, 2023.