Osteoarthritis: Risk Factors and Symptoms

Published by Steve Hedberg on January 9, 2012 Under arthritis

Osteoarthritis, or as it is known in Britain, osteoarthrosis, is the most common type of arthritis, especially among the elderly. As is the case with Rheumatoid Arthritis, the specific factors that cause this type of arthritis have not been completely identified.

One of the major differences between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis is how it affects the joints. Unlike in RA, where an autoimmune response leads to inflammation of the joints, osteoarthritis is a type of degenerative arthritis. It is often referred as a wear and tear arthritis, as most of the theories on the causes of osteoarthritis are related to use of the joint.

In someone with osteoarthritis, the cartilage around the joints wears down and deteriorates, which can eventually lead to the bones of the affected joint to rub directly against one another. Inflammation is often a symptom of this type of arthritis, but is usually secondary and the result of the effects of the disease.

As the disease develops and the bones of the joint begin to rub against one another, bone growth will often accelerate, which can lead to abnormal bone growths and deformity. It is also common for small pieces of bone to break off in the joint and cause inflammation of the joint and cartilage.

There are a number of risk factors associated with this type of arthritis, but the most common are previous injuries, occupation, obesity, and age. Genetics has also been shown to play a role in developing osteoarthritis, although this is likely not as big of a risk factor.

Previous Injuries

Whenever a joint is injured, such as from a broken bone, the risk for developing arthritis later in life is increased. Those that develop osteoarthritis have often had a previous injury in the affected joint and, as a result, will develop osteoarthritis in one of their joints and not the other.

Those who have birth deformities, such as being born with a dislocated hip, are also at an increased risk for osteoarthritis.


While the exact cause of osteoarthritis is unknown, most scientific explanations revolve around wear and tear being a factor in developing this type of arthritis. Studies have found that people in certain occupations are more likely to develop osteoarthritis in their weight bearing hips.

For example, farmers and soccer players are both at an increased risk for developing osteoarthritis, likely as a result of frequent repetitive joint motions and the effects of high-impact exertion on their joints.


Like a persons occupation, being overweight can also put increased stress on an individuals joints. This is especially true of weight bearing joints, like the hips and knees, but also other joints in the body.

Those that are overweight put a great deal more stress on their joints, more than they can safely support. Over time, this can lead to the joints deteriorating at a faster pace than they would normally. High-impact exercises, like running, and even regular exercise will result in a significantly larger amount of pressure being applied to weight bearing joints and cartilage of those who are overweight, increasing the risk of osteoarthritis.


A person’s genetics can also play a role in developing certain types of osteoarthritis, especially in smaller joints like the hands. Other factors, like congenital hip deformity and other birth defects, which typically are hereditary, also increase the risk for osteoarthritis. These risks are largest in females, with women also generally being more at risk for arthritis.

In particular, spondyloepiphysea dyslasia, which is a type of spinal deformity, is linked to a very rare type of osteoarthritis, which has been identified in the genetics of several family lines. So, while relatively rare, there are at least a few direct examples of osteoarthritis being tied to a family line.


Age is also a risk factor for developing this kind of arthritis, which is the most common type of elderly arthritis. It is believed that among seniors, small cracks and fissures may develop in cartilage, as the result of reduced amounts of joint fluids. This reduction of fluid can make the joints more brittle, which results in the small fissures and deterioration of cartilage.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis often results in joint pain and can lead to deformities. Often pain is the first indication of this type of arthritis and it is common for the hip or groin to ache. In many who experience this pain, the location of it is far enough from the joint that it is not initially associated with possible arthritis pain.

Many people experience discomfort during damp and cold weather, as well, although this varies from person to person. It is common to experience joint pain in the morning’s and evening’s as well. This is usually only temporary and will often subside within around a half hour.

Often, small red bumps, which are related to inflammation, will appear around the affected joint. Initially they will be quite painful, but it is common for this pain to subside and the joint simply be left deformed.

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