Causes of Osteoarthritis
These are some of the factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing osteoarthritis
Age is a significant risk factor for many health conditions, including osteoarthritis. As people get older, the cartilage that cushions their joints can wear down, leading to osteoarthritis. This is because the body’s ability to repair and regenerate cartilage decreases with age. In addition, the cumulative effects of wear and tear on joints over time can also contribute to osteoarthritis.
Studies say, more than 50% of people over the age of 65 have osteoarthritis in at least one joint, and it is the most common form of arthritis in older adults. However, osteoarthritis can occur in younger people as well, particularly if they have other risk factors such as joint injuries, repetitive stress on the joints, or certain medical conditions.
Gender is another risk factor for osteoarthritis, with women being more likely to develop the condition than men. And, women are twice as likely as men to develop osteoarthritis of the knee.
The reasons for this gender difference are not completely understood, but some possible factors may include differences in joint anatomy, hormones, and genetics. For example, women have wider hips and a different angle of their thighbones, which may put more stress on the knee joint. Hormones may also play a role, as estrogen has been shown to protect against cartilage breakdown in animal studies. Estrogen markedly reduces in women after Menopause (or) when they undergo surgical removal of the Uterus. Finally, genetic factors may also contribute to the sex differences in osteoarthritis risk, although more research is needed to fully understand this relationship.
Obesity is a well-established risk factor for osteoarthritis, particularly in weight-bearing joints such as the knees and hips. Excess body weight places additional stress on the joints, which can lead to the breakdown of cartilage over time. In addition, fat tissue produces proteins that can cause harmful inflammation in and around the joints, further contributing to the development of osteoarthritis. According to some reports, people who are overweight or obese are up to four times more likely to develop osteoarthritis than people who are at a healthy weight. And reports say more than one-third of adults with osteoarthritis are obese. Weight loss can help to reduce the risk of developing osteoarthritis, as well as to manage symptoms in people who already have the condition. Even modest weight loss can make a difference in reducing the stress on weight-bearing joints and improving overall joint health.
- Joint Injuries:
Joint injuries are a well-studied risk factor for developing osteoarthritis, particularly in the injured joint. Injuries to joints can damage the cartilage, leading to a breakdown in the joint’s ability to absorb shock and protect the bone. This can set the stage for the development of osteoarthritis over time, as the joint tries to repair itself and compensate for the injury.
Even injuries that occurred many years ago and which seemed to have healed can increase the risk of osteoarthritis later in life. For example, people who have had a knee injury, such as a torn meniscus or ligament, are at higher risk of developing osteoarthritis in that knee.
It’s important to take steps to prevent joint injuries when possible, such as using proper form and protective equipment during sports and other physical activities. If an injury does occur, prompt medical attention and appropriate rehabilitation can help to minimize the risk of long-term joint damage and osteoarthritis.
- Repetitive stress on joints:
Repetitive stress on joints is another risk factor for developing osteoarthritis. When a joint is subjected to repetitive stress or overuse, it can cause damage to the cartilage over time, leading to osteoarthritis. This type of stress is often seen in people who perform tasks that require repetitive motions, such as assembly line work, gardening, or playing certain sports.
Repetitive stress can also occur in people who have poor posture or use incorrect body mechanics during physical activity. For example, if you repeatedly twist your knee while playing tennis, you may be at higher risk of developing osteoarthritis in that knee.
Taking steps to prevent repetitive stress on joints can help to reduce the risk of developing osteoarthritis. This can include taking breaks during repetitive tasks, using proper body mechanics, and incorporating strength and flexibility exercises to help support the joints. If you’re not sure how to perform an activity in a way that minimizes joint stress, it may be helpful to consult with a physical therapist or healthcare provider.
Studies have shown that there is a hereditary component to the disease, with some people being more susceptible to developing it due to genetic factors.
Certain genetic variations have been linked to an increased risk of developing osteoarthritis. For example, variations in the gene that codes for collagen, a protein that makes up the cartilage in joints, have been associated with an increased risk of osteoarthritis.
In addition to specific gene variations, there may be inherited tendencies that affect the way joints are formed and function. For example, some people may have joint abnormalities that make them more susceptible to developing osteoarthritis later in life.
While genetics can influence the risk of developing osteoarthritis, lifestyle factors such as weight management and exercise can also play a role. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and managing any existing risk factors can help to reduce the risk of developing osteoarthritis, even in people who have a genetic predisposition to the disease.
- Bone deformities:
Bone deformities can also increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis. If someone is born with a joint abnormality or a bone deformity that affects the way their joints work, it can lead to increased stress on the joint over time. This can cause damage to the cartilage and increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis.
For example, people with hip dysplasia, a condition in which the hip socket doesn’t fully cover the ball of the thigh bone, can be at higher risk of developing osteoarthritis in their hips. Similarly, people with a bowed leg or a knocked knee can have increased stress on the knee joint, which can increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis in that joint.
While bone deformities cannot be prevented, early detection and management can help to reduce the risk of developing osteoarthritis. In some cases, surgical interventions such as joint realignment or replacement may be necessary to reduce stress on the joint and prevent further damage to the cartilage.
- Certain metabolic diseases:
Certain metabolic diseases can also increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis. These include diabetes and a condition called hemochromatosis, in which the body stores too much iron.
Diabetes has been linked to an increased risk of developing osteoarthritis, possibly due to the impact of high blood sugar levels on joint tissues. People with diabetes also tend to have other risk factors for osteoarthritis, such as obesity and hypertension.
Hemochromatosis can lead to the accumulation of excess iron in joint tissues, which can cause damage to the cartilage and increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis.
Managing these metabolic diseases through lifestyle changes and/or medication can help to reduce the risk of developing osteoarthritis. Regular monitoring of joint health may also be recommended for people with these conditions to detect and manage osteoarthritis early on.