Causes and risk factors of Osteoarthritis

Reading time: 2 min

Although the final cause of osteoarthritis is unknown, there are certain factors that are directly related to the gradual deterioration of the joint:

Elderly man and woman with cane

Age. The wear and tear due to the use of the joints increase as they get older.

Scale with an arrow pointing upwards indicating a weight increase

Obesity. The increase in body weight is an important factor in the development of osteoarthritis, especially in the lower spine, the hips, and the knees. The greater the weight, the higher the burden on these structures, and the greater the wear and tear.

Person running and an upward arrow indicating an increase in exercise.

Injury or excessive use. Athletes, and people with jobs that require that they make repetitive movements, have a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis. It is what happens to professional footballers who suffer from osteoarthritis of the knee, or the pneumatic drill operators, from osteoarthritis of the elbow and wrist.

Family tree

Genetics. This plays a role in the development of osteoarthritis, especially in the hands, where the mechanical overload is not as evident as in other structures like the knees. This is shown in many ways. The hereditary anomalies affect the form and stability of the joints, and may lead to the development of osteoarthritis. Thus, people with bowlegs have more chances of developing osteoarthritis of the knee, due to the abnormal distribution of the weight on the joint.

Woman swimming

Physical activity. Studies carried out on the knee show that strengthening exercises of the thigh muscles (especially quadriceps and hamstring musculature) are important for reducing the risk of osteoarthritis of the knee.

Swelling or pain in the arm where the treatment has been administered

Other diseases. Any disease that alters the joints, such as arthritis, can cause early damage to the cartilage and produce osteoarthritis in the joint earlier.

Substantiated information by:

Ana Isabel Monegal Brancos
Anna Martín Cortés
Felipe Julio Ramirez Garcia
Jenaro A. Fernández-Valencia Laborde
Nuria Sapena Fortea
Rosa Marina Fernandez

Published: 20 February 2018
Updated: 12 December 2023

The donations that can be done through this webpage are exclusively for the benefit of Hospital Clínic of Barcelona through Fundació Clínic per a la Recerca Biomèdica and not for BBVA Foundation, entity that collaborates with the project of PortalClínic.


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