Arthritis is a general term for a condition that damages joints and affects their function. Joints are places in the body where bones come together, such as the knees, wrists, fingers, toes, and hips. The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
The main difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis is the cause behind the joint symptoms. Osteoarthritis is caused by mechanical wear and tear on joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s own immune system attacks the body’s joints.
Osteoarthritis is a common, but generally painful disease. While people who live to old age may develop osteoarthritis, others can get it while they’re still relatively young. That’s why it’s important to know what the causes of this condition are so you can help prevent developing this problem.
Osteoarthritis is a condition of one or more joints in the body. Whether our joints are healthy or not, the cartilage in them is constantly deteriorating and being replaced.
In an arthritic joint, the cartilage is deteriorating faster than the body can replace it. The cartilage not only serves to keep to bone in place and keep it moving properly, it also provides padding between the various bones in the joint. When the cartilage degrades too far, the bones rub, causing severe pain.
An even more painful side effect is when the rubbing causes the bones to grow painful spurs. Eventually, the condition becomes so bad that the joint is no longer useful due to decreased movement or intense pain.
While determining the cause of the pain of arthritis is simple, determining the cause of the cartilage degradation is a bit more complicated.
It is believed that there is no one cause of osteoarthritis, but a combination of risk factors that may cause a problem when combined. Here are the biggest risk factors for developing osteoarthritis.
- Age. Whether they experience pain from it or not, almost everyone over the age of 60 has some degree of osteoarthritis. The older you are, the harder it is for cartilage to repair itself. It becomes brittle and can degrade easily. Plus, you’re dealing with a joint that has had many years of wear and tear.
- Genetics. While they’re not really sure how and why, doctors have discovered that arthritis tends to run in families.
- Weight. Carrying extra weight around causes excess strain and wear to your joints. This is obviously a factor only in joints that bear weight, like the knees. It’s not really a factor in arthritis of the hands or shoulders.
- Diet. A deficiency of certain nutrients may cause cartilage to degrade faster because it doesn’t have the proper materials to rebuild. Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help prevent nutrient deficiencies.
- Injury. Certain injuries that affect the cartilage, if severe enough, can be a cause of osteoarthritis. While you can’t prevent all injuries, you should take care of yourself if you’ve been injured and find out if your injuries may increase your chance or developing arthritis.
- Occupation. It you have a job that demands a large amount of physical exertion; you are wearing your joints out a lot faster which may lead to arthritis. This is also true of people who regularly participate in certain sports.
- Infection. Getting an infection in the joints increases your risk for arthritis. If you have a serious joint infection, you may have an increased risk.
- Inflammation. The reason you tend to get osteoarthritis as you age is because your joints swell more as you get older. If you have chronic inflammation, you could develop arthritis much sooner.
These are just the major known risk factors for developing arthritis. Since we aren’t aware of all the risk factors and because many of them aren’t preventable (i.e. age, genetics) it is important that we continue research to help keep joint cartilage from degrading. If you feel you may be suffering from Arthritis, please speak to your health care provider.