Risk Factors for Osteoarthritis

A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop osteoarthritis with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing osteoarthritis. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your healthcare provider what you can do to reduce your risk.

Specific Lifestyle Factor

  • Weakness of the thigh muscles may increase your risk of osteoarthritis of the knee; exercises that strengthen the thigh muscles may provide some protection against osteoarthritis.

Medical Condition

You have an increased risk of developing osteoarthritis if you have or have had:

  • Past injury to a joint
  • Previous surgery to the joint
  • History of infection in a joint
  • Congenital defect or weakness in a joint
  • Acromegaly (a pituitary disorder)
  • Paget’s disease of bone
  • Hemochromatosis (iron overload disease)
  • Gout or pseudogout
  • Bleeding into the joint (as occurs with hemophilia)

Age

  • 50% of people over the age of 65 have arthritis in at least one joint
  • Over 80% of people over the age of 75 have arthritis in at least one joint
  • Not all of these people will have significant symptoms

Gender

  • Under age 45, more men than women have osteoarthritis
  • Over age 55, more women than men have osteoarthritis

Genetic Factors

The tendency to develop osteoarthritis frequently runs in families.

Ethnic Background

Risk factors for developing osteoarthritis in specific joints are different for different ethnic backgrounds. For example:

  • Caucasians have a higher overall risk of developing osteoarthritis than Asians.
  • Osteoarthritis of the hip is less common in Chinese, Jamaican, and South African people of color, and Asian Indians; hip and knee osteoarthritis is more common among the Japanese.
  • African-American women have more osteoarthritis of the knee and less osteoarthritis of the hand than do Caucasian women in the US.

Other

You are more likely to develop osteoarthritis if you:

  • Are overweight
  • Work at a job or participate intensely in an athletic pursuit that requires a lot of lifting, squatting,or repetitive joint use

References:

Arthritis Foundation website. Available at: http://www.arthritis.org/ .

Conn’s Current Therapy . 54th ed. W.B. Saunders Company; 2002.

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/ .

Manek NJ, Lane NE. Osteoarthritis: current concepts in diagnosis and management. American Family Physician . 2000;51(6). Available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/20000315/1795.html.



Last reviewed February 2007 by Robert E. Leach, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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