Causes of Osteoarthritis

Scientists do not know exactly what the osteoarthritis causes are, but it appears that there is no one single cause of the disease. Risk factors for the condition include genetics, being overweight, getting older, and having joint injuries. These and other risk factors do not guarantee that a person will develop osteoarthritis, but they can increase the chances of developing the condition.

What Causes Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis (formally known as degenerative joint disease) is the most common type of arthritis. It is thought to affect over 20 million people in the United States. Yet, despite how common it is, scientists do not know exactly what causes osteoarthritis. This is because osteoarthritis appears to be a surprisingly complex disease. In other words, there is no one single cause.

Causes of Osteoarthritis or Just Risk Factors?

While scientists are still searching for causes of osteoarthritis, they do know a number of factors that increase a person's chances of developing it. These are known as risk factors. Risk factors are not the same as osteoarthritis causes. While they do increase the chances of developing osteoarthritis, they do not guarantee that a person will develop it.
Some risk factors for osteoarthritis include:
  • Getting older
  • Gender
  • Being overweight
  • Genetics
  • Having weak muscles
  • Certain medical conditions
  • Joint injuries
  • Repetitive stresses on the joints.
Getting Older
As people get older, they are increasingly likely to develop osteoarthritis. By age 65, half of the population has x-ray evidence of osteoarthritis in at least one joint, most often in the hips, knees, or fingers.
Osteoarthritis often results from years of wear and tear on joints. This wear and tear mostly affects the cartilage, or the tissue that cushions the ends of bones within the joint. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage begins to fray, wear away, and decay.
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