What are the Causes of Osteoarthritis?

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  • Written By: M.R. Anglin
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 27 March 2020
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Osteoarthritis is a painful condition that occurs when the cartilage between bones wears down. The breakdown of this cartilage can leave bare bone rubbing on bare bone, which can result in joint pain and stiffness. Many times, the disease develops on load bearing joints such as the knees or hips. It is not clear what causes osteoarthritis, but there are several factors that contribute to it. Some of these contributing causes of osteoarthritis are age, the overuse or under use of joints, obesity, genetics, joint defects, and injury.

One of the main contributing causes of osteoarthritis is age. As people grow older, the cartilage that cushions the bones in the joints can begin to deteriorate. Using these worn joints can cause inflammation and swelling. In addition, the deterioration of the cartilage can result in bone rubbing on bone. Friction between the bones can also be the source of pain.

People who have jobs or participate in activities that cause strain on joints can also develop this disease. The overuse of a joint is another of the contributing causes of osteoarthritis. Thus, ballet dancers, jackhammer operators, and athletes are more likely to develop the disease than other individuals. The under-use of a joint may also be one of the causes of osteoarthritis. Not using a joint enough can result in the weakening of muscles that support the joint, pain, stiffness, and could eventually lead to the development of osteoarthritis.


Too much weight can cause myriad health problems, including issues with joint health. Obesity may also be another of the contributing causes of osteoarthritis. Being overweight puts more strain on joints, which is one factor of the development of the disease. In fact, a young person who is overweight is more likely to develop osteoarthritis when he gets older. Many times, a doctor will suggest that a person lose weight if he is at risk for the disease.

Genetics may also be a contributing factor. If a person’s joints are not formed properly, osteoarthritis can result. Those who are double-jointed or bow-legged may be at greater risk for developing the disease than those who aren’t. In addition, osteoarthritis may also be hereditary. People whose parents had the disease may end up developing it themselves.

Another factor in the development of osteoarthritis may be an injury. Should trauma cause damage to a joint, a person is more likely to develop osteoarthritis. This is one reason why an athlete who has multiple knee injuries is more likely to develop this disease. Infection of the joint can also cause a person to develop osteoarthritis. Whatever the cause, a doctor can provide answers and solutions to help to reduce the risk of osteoarthritis or manage the pain associated with it.



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