Arthritis Causes & Risks
Risk factors for arthritis can vary depending on the type, but in general, certain things may increase your risk. Genetics may play a role in the development of certain types of arthritis, so if your family members have arthritis, you're more likely to develop it. Women are more likely than men to develop many types of arthritis. Also, any kind of excessive stress or injury to the joints may increase the risk of developing arthritis, so people who are overweight or who play sports are often at a higher risk. Age also plays a role in the development of some types of arthritis, so being over the age of 40 may increase your risk.
5 AnswersMost arthritis is caused by use and the slow gradual compromise of the joint tissues due to chronic inflammation. This type of arthritis is termed osteoarthritis and generally occurs at an older age. There are other causes of arthirits including autoimmune arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis, septic arthrits from infections, and gout arthritis to name a few that can happen earlier in a patient's life.
2 AnswersDr. Michael Roizen, MD , Internal Medicine, answered
Cracking your knuckles makes you sound like a bowl of Rice Krispies and never goes over well in church. While it's painful for everyone around you to hear, you're not doing any harm to your joints, bones, or muscles when you crack-unless it hurts when you crack them. It's just caused by the high-pressure suction of gas being expelled when your joints move apart. If it hurts when your knuckles or knees crack, you need to see your doctor to assess what kind of joint damage you may have.
1 AnswerArthritis is not just a disease that affects older people. Two-thirds of individuals with arthritis are under the age of 65, including an estimated 300,000 children. Of the more than 50 million Americans with arthritis, more than 36 million are white, more than 4.6 million are African-American and 2.9 million are Hispanic, says the Arthritis Foundation.
Moreover, arthritis is not just about common aches and pains.
Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is a degenerative joint disease marked by the breakdown of joint cartilage. Its risk factors include obesity, being overweight or having a history of joint injury. Symptoms of osteoarthritis most often develop gradually and include:
- joint aching and soreness, especially with movement
- pain after overuse or after long periods of inactivity
- stiffness after periods of rest
- bony enlargements in the middle and end joints of the fingers (which may or may not be painful)
- joint swelling
Juvenile arthritis is a broad term used to describe many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can develop in children ages 16 and younger.
1 AnswerDr. Grant Cooper, MD , Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, answeredPeople who are obese have a significantly increased risk of developing arthritis, because obesity is an important source of chronic microtrauma to the cartilage. Joints are designed for carrying, properly distributing, and cushioning body weight. They are also capable of taking on temporary excess loads. For example, stress on the joints is greatly increased when we carry groceries, lift weights, bend over, or run up stairs. However, joints do have limits.
Each step you take while walking involves temporarily transferring your weight primarily onto one joint. When you factor in momentum, biomechanics, and gravity, your knees and hips experience up to three times as much pressure as your body weight with each step. If you weigh 140 pounds, your knee joints may experience as much as 320 pounds of weight with each step. When you walk down a flight of stairs, your hip and knee joints may experience as much as a six-fold increase in weight, so that same 140-pound person experiences as much as 640 pounds across the knees and hips.
In other words, every pound you gain punishes your joints up to six-fold. Research clearly bears this out; overweight men are five times more likely to develop arthritis, and overweight women are four times more likely to develop it than are their non-overweight counterparts. For every 10 pounds of excess weight gain, the risk of developing arthritis increases by 40 percent. Every time you take a step, the extra weight places increased pressure on your weight-bearing joints, because the load is too great for your muscles, ligaments, and tendons. The joints shift under the weight and, ultimately, they are overwhelmed, resulting in repetitive microtears in the cartilage. Additional stresses are taken up by static portions of your bone, creating friction. Your bone responds by trying to build new bone, but the new bone is weaker than the original bone, and the process of arthritis is well on its way.
1 AnswerDr. Christopher W. Hodgkins, MD , Orthopedic Surgery, answered on behalf of Baptist Health South FloridaIn arthritis of the midfoot, the joints of the midfoot can begin to wear out for a variety of reasons. If they are injured by a fall, a twist or a crush accident, progressive degeneration of the joints can begin. Sometimes an individual’s foot anatomy places more pressure on one portion of the foot, causing a joint to wear. In addition, small amounts of loosening of the joints or slight flattening of the foot can begin the degeneration toward arthritis.
1 AnswerDr. Anthony L. Komaroff, MD , Internal Medicine, answeredMany people assume that diet has a lot to do with the development of arthritis. Based on our current understanding, this notion is largely myth.
However, there are some links between diet and arthritis. For example, getting enough milk and vitamin C is associated with a somewhat lower risk of gout. Gout is a disorder characterized by too much uric acid in the blood and tissues. Crystals of uric acid are deposited in the joints, where they cause a type of arthritis called gouty arthritis.
The risk of developing gout appears to be higher among people with a diet that is high in:
- high-fructose corn syrup (as in sweetened soft drinks)
- purines (a form of protein found in sardines, liver and other organ meats)
Another condition in which diet may affect arthritis risk is celiac disease. This is an immune reaction to gluten in the diet. Gluten is a component of wheat and other grains. By eliminating gluten from the diet (by avoiding many bread products, cereals and a host of other common foods), the condition can be controlled and the arthritis improved.
There is no clear connection between diet and these common forms of arthritis:
- rheumatoid arthritis
Perhaps the most important connection between diet and arthritis is the well-known link between obesity and the most common type of arthritis, osteoarthritis. The best way to reduce your risk of developing osteoarthritis is to maintain a healthy weight and avoid a diet that contributes to obesity. Recent studies suggest that obese people with osteoarthritis have less pain if they lose weight. (However, genetics have an impact on osteoarthritis risk. Changes in diet alone do not reliably reduce arthritis symptoms.)
We may someday figure out that diet matters much more than we realize now. But, at the current time, diet plays little or no role in the development of most joint diseases.
Find out more about this book:Harvard Medical School Arthritis: Keeping your joints healthy