Osteoarthritis Risk Factors

Osteoarthritis is the most common known joint disease. Risk factors for osteoarthritis can sometimes be hard to define because only 30% of people who actually indicate the condition with x-ray feel any symptoms. There’s not much we can do about certain contributory factors like our age, gender or genetics. Nevertheless, there are some factors that we can control, as well as recognise the impact of others more quickly, so reducing, or slowing the rate of the degenerative osteoarthritis process.

Age/Sex

More than ever osteoarthritis is very common in the older population. Over half of people over the age of 65 and more than 80% of people over the age of 70 suffer from the condition. Before the age of 55 more men than women have osteoarthritis, once past age 55, osteoarthritis occurs more frequently in women. This is believed to be connected to the hormonal changes women experience during menopause.

Weight

Being overweight is a primary risk factor for osteoarthritis. Women have a four to five times greater chance of developing osteoarthritis than a man or women of normal weight. Overweight men and women are particularly at risk from knee osteoarthritis where a force estimated to be three to six times our body weight is carried across our knees when walking. The greater the body weight, the more excess force placed over the knees during weight bearing movements. To a lesser extent, osteoarthritis of the hips is also influenced by body weight. The hips carry up to three times the body’s weight during walking or standing.

Genetics

Doctors believe our genes can influence osteoarthritis by up to 50%. We may inherit certain biomechanical joint problems such as bony spurs or the tendency towards cartilage wear and tear.  This also includes certain birth abnormalities like being bowlegged, which can carry a high risk of osteoarthritis. Today researchers are studying the blood of people with osteoarthritis to establish an early warning system, allowing patients to begin treatment at an earlier stage.

Injury

Leading to osteoarthritis at any age, damage to a bone, ligament or joint can be a common source of osteoarthritis, changing the structure of the joint and placing excess stress on it. Typically, any injury to your knee, hip spine or ankle can lead to wear and tear in later life, initiating the damage in joints that precedes osteoarthritis.

Disease

Medical conditions that lead to joint damage can also cause osteoarthritis. Illness, infection, or any disease which causes changes in the joint structure such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout and hemochromatosis can play a role.

Muscle weakness

Studies have shown that people who have weak thigh muscles, more specifically the quadriceps, are more prone to osteoarthritis.

Occupation

Certain jobs where your joints are repeatedly stressed in the same position for an extended period can create a risk factor for osteoarthritis. Typical occupations include farmers who risk hip osteoarthritis, mill workers and miners who risk knee and spine osteoarthritis, as well as professional athletes and sportsmen.

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