Millions of people around the world are living with arthritis. It’s a common chronic condition characterized by joint pain, stiffness, and inflammation, which typically worsen as you age. Its most commonly diagnosed forms are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis is when the immune system targets the joints, directly causing damage to tissues essential for cushioning and movement. Osteoarthritis, on the other hand, causes the cartilage—the slippery tissue that protects the ends of the bones—to break down.
Common signs and symptoms of arthritis include the following:
- Limited range of motion
If you or a loved one exhibits any of the symptoms above, consult a doctor specializing in diagnosing and treating similar conditions like Atlas Spine & Rehab.
In the meantime, how do you know if someone is at risk of this debilitating condition?
Common Risk Factors Of Arthritis
When it comes to arthritis, there’s a wide range of risk factors at play, but these are most common.
1. Old Age
Getting older is one of the common reasons why people get arthritis. As you age, your cartilage gradually becomes brittle and loses its ability to repair itself.
People between the ages of 40 and 50 may start developing osteoarthritis. However, it can begin much earlier, depending on your condition, state of health, and other factors.
Whether viral or bacterial, infections around the joint may cause the cartilage to deteriorate and form lesions that reach the synovial membrane. People who have multiple episodes of gout, septic joint, or recurrent staphylococcus infections are at higher risk of developing arthritis.
Joint damage could cause abnormalities and irregularities in the smooth joint surface. Previous injuries play a critical role in the development of wrist arthritis, where bones and cartilage structures can be compromised by compression or impact, as in a tibial plateau fracture. It’s an injury where the broken part of the bone reaches the knee joint cartilage, potentially causing lasting damage.
4. Autoimmune Factors
Some forms of arthritis develop when the immune system attacks the bodily tissues. These include psoriatic, rheumatoid, lupus, and juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
Why do autoimmune conditions happen? When your immune system becomes extremely sensitive, your body will produce too many antibodies that eventually attack your organs and joints. Have your blood tested regularly to check for issues with your immune response.
What causes autoimmune conditions are still unclear up to this date. However, it might be due to other factors, such as infection, genetic predisposition, and environmental exposure.
Genetics also increase the risk of developing certain types of arthritis. For example, around 40% of people with psoriasis may have family members with the same condition. However, the link between the two isn’t clearly and fully understood.
Some forms of rheumatoid arthritis can be associated with genetic markers HLA-DR4 and HLA-B27. Other gene variants, such as the following, may be the same way:
- C5 and TRAF1: Genes linked to increased risk of chronic inflammation
- STAT4: A gene crucial to regulating and activating the immune response
- PTPN22: A gene linked to increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis
All of these can increase your risk of arthritis. But an official diagnosis is necessary to truly know if you have the condition. Only then can you pursue a proper treatment and management plan?
Lifestyle Risk Factors
Certain daily living choices may increase your risk of arthritis and worsen its symptoms, too. Essentially, the amount of pressure and tension you put into your joints can lead to the development of this chronic condition.
Lifestyle factors include the following:
Obesity is considered a factor because it places a lot of stress on the joint. This is especially true regarding knee and hip joints, where extra weight directly causes inflammation that may damage and deteriorate joint tissues.
Strenuous sports activities may increase the risk of arthritis, especially if a person regularly receives blunt force impact, resulting in bone and joint damage. This is typically the case with contact sports and those that place constant stress on the joints, such as marathons.
Manual labor jobs, especially those that involve repetitive motions, can cause joint damage that could lead to arthritis. Even simple movements like pushing a cart or pulling a lever can deteriorate joint cartilage over the years.
Know Who Is At Risk
While arthritis can affect anyone, understanding the risk factors associated with this condition is crucial for early intervention and prevention.
Age, genetics, gender, and lifestyle all play a role in determining an individual’s susceptibility to the condition. By identifying these risk factors, you can make informed lifestyle choices, such as maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in regular exercise, and developing routines for rest and recovery.
Additionally, healthcare providers can offer targeted interventions and preventive strategies to minimize the impact of arthritis and improve the quality of life for those at risk.