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Osteoarthritis Risk Factors

What increases the risk of developing osteoarthritis?


Updated June 18, 2014

Age is an Osteoarthritis Risk Factor

Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disease in the United States and worldwide. Osteoarthritis is also among the most common causes of pain and disability in older people. Consider these quick statistics:

  • One third of people over 65 years old have knee osteoarthritis which can be seen on x-ray.
  • Seventy percent of people over 70 years old have x-ray evidence of osteoarthritis.
  • Before 50 years old, osteoarthritis is more prevalent among men than women.
  • After 50 years old, women are more likely affected by osteoarthritis than men.

Not all people who have osteoarthritis evident on x-ray develop symptomatic osteoarthritis. This fact has made defining osteoarthritis risk factors more difficult.

Other Known Osteoarthritis Risk Factors

Osteoarthritis risk factors include:

  • Excess weight or obesity - Obese women are four to five times more likely to have knee osteoarthritis than people of normal weight.

  • Injury - Acute knee injuries are recognized as common causes of knee osteoarthritis.

  • Certain occupations - Farmers, jackhammer operators, and mill workers have high rates of osteoarthritis.

  • Congenital or developmental deformities - Abnormalities of the hip and knee can lead to premature osteoarthritis.

  • Hormones - Women who take estrogen replacement therapy are not as likely to develop osteoarthritis as women who do not take estrogen.

  • Weak thigh muscles - Weak quadriceps can lead to osteoarthritis of the knees.

  • Genetic factors - Genetics may impact the incidence of osteoarthritis. For example, heritability of hand osteoarthritis is about 65 percent.

  • Race - Some reports suggest that African-Americans have higher rate of osteoarthritis than Caucasians.

  • Low intake of vitamin C and D - Has been associated with increased risk of knee osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis Epidemiology, Pathology, and Pathogenesis. Primer on the Rheumatic Diseases. Edition 12. Published by Arthritis Foundation.
Osteoarthritis Risk Factors. Mayo Clinic. April 27, 2007. <http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/osteoarthritis/DS00019/DSECTION=4>

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