What are the Causes of Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis occurs when your joints suffer damage that isn’t fully repaired. As a result, cartilage, which allows your joints to move smoothly, becomes worn down. This lack of cushioning material causes friction between your bones, causing pain, swelling, and even bony growths.

The cause of osteoarthritis isn’t always easy to pinpoint, but it’s often related to aging. Cartilage changes over time, developing a lower amount of protein and a higher amount of water. Repeated use of joints year after year compounds the wear and tear and increases the chances that osteoarthritis will develop. While it’s not considered to be a normal part of the aging process, the risk of developing osteoarthritis increases as you age. It can also affect younger people, but most cases are found in people age 45 or older.

Common Risk Factors

In addition to aging, the following are common risk factors associated with osteoarthritis:

Injury


Injury or repeated trauma can cause osteoarthritis in a joint. This is even true for young adults, for whom injury is the greatest risk factor. Regular exercise and rehabilitation after injuries are recommended to help prevent the long-term damage associated with osteoarthritis.

Obesity

Excess weight puts extra strain on your cartilage and joints, especially your hips and knees. This can make osteoarthritis more likely to occur or make it worse if you’ve developed it as a result of other risk factors.

Genetics

An osteoarthritis gene has not yet been identified, but sometimes the disease can have a hereditary link. Nodal osteoarthritis, which affects the hands, has been found to have a strong hereditary link. A rarer type of osteoarthritis has been associated with genetic defects in collagen, which is found in cartilage. This is relatively rare, however.

Other Conditions

A wide variety of health conditions can cause joint damage, which can cause osteoarthritis to be more likely to develop. This can occur even years after the damage first occurs. Diseases that can cause joint damage include rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and diabetes.

What You Can Do

Some risk conditions for osteoarthritis are beyond your control. But you may be able to lessen your chances of developing this disease in the following ways:

Exercise

Regular exercise can help keep your joints healthy and strengthen the muscles that help support them. Exercises such as swimming help you strengthen your joints without putting excessive strain on them. Be careful to not push yourself beyond normal fatigue, and take steps to prevent injuries.

Improve Your Posture


Poor posture may play a role in the development of osteoarthritis of the spine. Be aware of your posture, and if you have a desk job, make sure your chair is at the right height and take frequent breaks.

Lose Weight if You Need To


Being overweight increases the chance that you’ll get osteoarthritis, and it can also make your symptoms worse if you already have the condition. Talk to your doctor about healthy changes you can make to help you lose weight.