Osteoarthritis (OA) is a long-term chronic disease caused by gradual deterioration of cartilage in joints. While aging is the leading cause, OA is also associated with other factors like genetic predisposition, obesity, gender, occupational injury and sports injuries.
According to the World Health Organization’s Department of Chronic Diseases and Health, an estimated 10 to 15 percent of all adults over age 60 have some degree of OA, and the disease is more prevalent in women than men, particularly after menopause. Reasons for this are unknown but according to arthrolink.com, it likely has to do with decreasing hormones in the cartilage.
Although osteoarthritis may affect people of every gender, age and size, it’s an accepted fact that excess weight places additional stress on your joints and increases your risk of developing the disease. This is particularly relevant to your load bearing joints—knees, hips and back.
Genetics also play a part. You are at greater risk of developing osteoarthritis if relatives, including siblings, have the condition. Nodal osteoarthritis, in which the end joints of the fingers become swollen and tender for a period of time, affects middle-aged women and runs strongly in families. Some rare forms of OA that develop at an earlier age have also been shown to result from genetics.
Your occupation or even favorite hobby can lead to osteoarthritis. People who complete the same repetitive movements and activities in their jobs for long periods of time may be more susceptible to developing joint stiffness and pain. Activities include physical labor, squatting, kneeling and climbing stairs.
A final contributor to OA is trauma related to sports injuries and can affect even younger athletes. Common sporting injuries that can lead to OA include dislocated joints, torn cartilage and ligament injuries. One of the most problematic and common sporting injuries is anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears and strains to the knee joint. According to a study published in the Open Orthopedics Journal, these have been medically linked to increased risk of developing the disease later in life. Athletes typically have a higher tolerance for pain and consequently, diagnosis is often delayed.