7 Common Causes of Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint condition that affects as many as 27 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The condition is an inflammation that occurs when the cartilage that cushions the joints wears away. Cartilage is a buffer of sorts that lets your joints move smoothly. When cartilage begins to break down, your bones end up rubbing together when you move. The friction causes inflammation, pain, stiffness, and other uncomfortable symptoms. Many of the causes of osteoarthritis are out of your control. However, there are some lifestyle factors that you can change, if needed, to reduce your risk of developing OA.
Arthritis is a common joint problem and is usually associated with older adults. According to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), most people show symptoms of osteoarthritis by the time they are 70 years old. However, OA is not restricted to baby boomers and other middle-aged populations. Younger adults can also feel the morning joint stiffness, aching pain, tender joints, and limited range of motion that signifies OA. Younger people are more likely to develop arthritis as a direct result of a trauma.
All in the Family
You’re more likely to suffer from OA symptoms if your parents, grandparents, or siblings have osteoarthritis. OA tends to run in the family, especially if you have genetic joint defects. If you’re suffering from joint pain, get the details about your close relatives’ symptoms before making a doctor’s appointment. Diagnosis of arthritis relies heavily on medical history as well as a physical examination. Learning about your family’s health history can help your doctor come up with an appropriate treatment plan for you.
Gender plays a role in osteoarthritis too. Overall, more women than men develop the progressive symptoms of OA. The two sexes are on equal ground: roughly the same amount of each gender is affected by arthritis, until about age 55, according to the NLM. After the age of 55, females are more likely to have OA than men of the same age.
The trauma of a sports injury can cause osteoarthritis in adults of any age. Common injuries that may lead to OA include:
- torn cartilage
- dislocated joints
- ligament injuries
Sports-related knee trauma such as ACL strains and tears are especially dangerous when it comes to increasing your risk of arthritis. Research published in Current Opinion in Rheumatology found that 41 to 51 percent of participants with previous knee injuries showed signs of OA in later years.
OA and Your Job
What you do for a living (or a hobby) could lead to arthritis in some cases. OA is sometimes referred to as a “wear and tear” disease. Repetitive straining of the joints can cause the cartilage to wear down prematurely. People who perform physical labor, kneel, squat, or climb stairs for hours at a time may be more likely to develop joint pain and stiffness. The hands, knees, and hips are common joints affected by occupation-related OA.
A Heavy Matter
Although OA affects people of all ages, genders, and sizes, your risk increases if you’re overweight. Excess body weight places additional stress on your joints, especially your knees, hips, and back. It can also cause cartilage damage, which is the hallmark of osteoarthritis. If you’re concerned about your risk, or are already feeling joint pain, talk to your doctor about an appropriate weight loss plan.
Bleeding and OA
Osteoarthritis can worsen, or new symptoms can develop when you have other medical conditions involving bleeding near a joint. People with the bleeding disorder hemophilia or a blockage of blood flow called avascular necrosis could also experience symptoms associated with OA. You’re also more at risk for OA if you have other forms of arthritis, such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis.
What Comes Next?
Osteoarthritis is a chronic and progressive medical condition. Most people find that their symptoms increase over time. Although OA doesn’t have a cure, there are different treatments available to ease your pain and maintain your mobility. Make an appointment with your doctor as soon as you suspect you might have arthritis; early treatment means less time in pain, and more time living life to its fullest.
- For Patients – Osteoarthritis. (2013). Brigham and Women's Hospital. Retrieved August 29, 2013, from http://www.brighamandwomens.org/Departments_and_Services/medicine/services/rheumatology/services/osteoarthritis/for_patients/default.aspx
- Osteoarthritis. (2010, October 20). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved August 30, 2013, from http://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/osteoarthritis.htm
- Osteoarthritis. (2011, September 26). National Institutes of Health. Retrieved August 29, 2013, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001460/
- Roos, E.M. (2005, March). Joint injury causes knee osteoarthritis in young adults. Current Opinion in Rheumatology, 17(2), 195-200. Retrieved August 29, 2013, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15711235