7 Common Causes of Osteoarthritis

Medically reviewed by William Morrison, MD on October 21, 2016Written by Erica Roth on September 16, 2013

About osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint condition that affects as many as , according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The condition is an inflammation. It 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

Many of the causes of osteoarthritis are out of your control. But you can make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of developing OA.

Age considerations

Arthritis is a common joint problem usually associated with older adults. According to the , most people show symptoms of osteoarthritis by the time they are 70 years old.

But OA isn’t restricted to older adults. Younger adults can also experience symptoms that may signify OA, including:

  • morning joint stiffness
  • aching pain
  • tender joints
  • limited range of motion

Younger people are more likely to develop arthritis as a direct result of a trauma.

All in the family

OA tends to run in the family, especially if you have genetic joint defects. You’re more likely to suffer from OA symptoms if your parents, grandparents, or siblings have the condition.

If your relatives have symptoms of joint pain, get the details 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 roles

Gender also plays a role in osteoarthritis. 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 around age 55, according to the .

After that, women are more likely to have OA than men of the same age.

Sports injuries

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 anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) strains and tears, are particularly problematic. They’ve been linked to an increased risk of later developing OA, according to research published in .

OA and your job

In some cases, what you do for a living (or a hobby) could lead to arthritis. OA is sometimes referred to as a “wear and tear” disease. Repetitive strain in your joints can cause the cartilage to wear down prematurely.

People who perform certain activities in their jobs for hours at a time may be more likely to develop joint pain and stiffness. This includes:

  • physical labor
  • kneeling
  • squatting
  • climbing stairs

The joints that are commonly affected by occupation-related OA include:

  • hands
  • knees
  • hips

A heavy matter

Osteoarthritis affects people of all ages, genders, and sizes. However, your risk for developing the condition increases if you’re overweight.

Excess body weight places additional stress on your joints, especially your:

  • knees
  • hips
  • back

OA can also cause cartilage damage, the hallmark of the condition. If you’re concerned about your risk, or already feeling joint pain, talk to your doctor about an appropriate weight loss plan.

Bleeding and OA

Medical conditions that involve bleeding near a joint can cause osteoarthritis to become worse or new symptoms to develop.

People with the bleeding disorder hemophilia, or avascular necrosis — the death of bone tissue due to a lack of blood supply — 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.

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