Osteoarthritis (OA) is a long-term chronic disease which is caused by gradual deterioration of cartilage in joints. While OA is commonly associated with aging, other factors like genetic predisposition, obesity, gender, occupational injury and sport injuries can contribute.
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, with prevalence higher among women than men.
Although osteoarthritis may affect people of every gender, age and size, your risk of developing this disease increases if you are overweight. Excess body weight places additional stress on your body’s joints, particularly the knees, hips and back, all load bearing.
You are also at greater risk of developing the disease if your mother, father, grandparents or even your siblings have the condition. Nodal osteoarthritis runs strongly in families, particularly affecting middle aged women’s hands. The genes involved in this are not known. Some rare forms of OA that develop at an earlier age have been linked to genes that affect collagen, an essential component of cartilage. With regards to the knee and hip joints, genetic factors play a smaller part, although they are still important.
In some cases, your occupation or even favorite hobby can lead to osteoarthritis. This is called a wear and tear condition in which repetitive strain on your joints causes cartilage to wear down prematurely. People who complete the same movements and activities in their jobs for long periods of time may be more susceptible to joint stiffness and pain. Such activities include physical labor, squatting, kneeling and climbing stairs, among others. The joints most commonly affected by occupational-related osteoarthritis include the hips, knees and hands.
Another possible factor in OA is sport injury. The trauma caused by a sports injury can lead to osteoarthritis in adults of any age. Common sports’ injuries include dislocated joints, torn cartilage and ligament injuries, of which anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears and strains to the knee joint are often considered the most prevalent and problematic. These have been medically linked to an increased risk of developing the disease at a later stage in life, according to a study published in the Open Orthopedics Journal. If you suffer from a sports injury to a joint, it is important to have it diagnosed quickly and to follow a treatment plan as directed by your medical team.