Arthritis Home > Arthritis Risk Factors

The specific risk factors for arthritis will vary depending on what type of arthritis is in question. For example, risk factors for osteoarthritis (the most common form of arthritis) can include gender, being overweight, getting older, and having weak muscles. Risk factors for gout, on the other hand, may include drinking too much alcohol and eating foods that are high in purines. Scientists do not yet fully understand the cause or causes of the various forms of arthritis.

An Overview of Arthritis Risk Factors

Scientists do not yet fully understand what causes the various forms of arthritis. They are studying risk factors to determine why some people develop the disease and others do not. What can be doubly difficult is that arthritis is not a single disease; there are over 100 different types of arthritis. Therefore, what may be a risk factor for one type of arthritis may not be a risk factor for another. For example, being a woman increases your risk of osteoarthritis; being a man increases your risk of gout.
Osteoarthritis and gout are two types of arthritis that illustrate this point particularly well. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. Gout is also very common, especially in older adults.

Risk Factors for Osteoarthritis

Some osteoarthritis risk factors include:
  • Getting older
  • Gender
  • Being overweight
  • Genetics
  • Having weak muscles
  • Certain medical conditions
  • Joint injuries
  • Repetitive stresses on the joints.
(Click Causes of Osteoarthritis for more information on these risk factors.)

Gout Risk Factors

Some specific risk factors for gout include:
  • Having family members with gout. Up to 18 percent of people with gout have a family history of the disease.
  • Being male.
  • Being overweight or obese. This is because there is more tissue available for turnover or breakdown, which leads to excess uric acid production (see BMI Calculator to learn if your weight is within a healthy range).
  • Drinking too much alcohol. Alcohol not only increases the amount of uric acid made, it also interferes with the removal of uric acid from the body.
  • Eating too many foods rich in purines (see Gout Diet for foods high in purines).
  • Having an enzyme defect that makes it hard for the body to break down purines. This includes conditions such as glucose-6-phosphatase deficiency and fructose-1-phosphate deficiency.
  • Having any of the following conditions:
  • Having kidney problems, including renal insufficiency or polycystic kidney disease.
  • Being exposed to lead in the environment.
  • Having had an organ transplant.
  • Using certain medicines, such as:
    • Diuretics (also known as water pills). These medicines are taken to eliminate excess fluid from the body in people with conditions like high blood pressure and congestive heart failure. They decrease the amount of uric acid passed in the urine.


    • Salicylates, or anti-inflammatory medicines made from salicylic acid, such as aspirin.



    • Cyclosporine (Gengraf®, Neoral®, Sandimmune®), a medicine used to suppress the body's immune system (the system that protects the body from infection and disease) and control the body's rejection of transplanted organs.


    • Levodopa (Larodopa®), a medicine used to support communication along nerve pathways in the treatment of Parkinson's disease.


Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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