What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis, also known as Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) but more commonly known as "arthritis", is the degeneration of cartilage in a joint leading to bone-on-bone degradation. 

What causes osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis results in the deterioration of the cartilage that acts as a protective cushion between bones.  It is more common in the general population in partially weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and knees. As bones grind against one another, it can result in hardening of the joint, inflammation of the fluid-filled, protective bursa sacs, and possibly bone spurs and other problems that lead to pain. 

What risk factors increase my chances of getting osteoarthritis? 

Unfortunately, not qualifying for any risk factors does not guarantee you'll never have osteoarthritic symptoms, but it can help to decrease chances. Some risk factors are out of our control, but some definitely aren't!

1.  Old Age increases your risk significantly, as not only do the proteins in the body that recreate and make up cartilage become more sparse in the joints, but the fluid that protects the cartilage is produced less as you age, as well. 

2. Obesity puts added stress on weight-bearing joints, and adipose (fatty) tissue produce proteins that can lead to harmful, degrading inflammation in the joint cavities. 

3. Joint Injuries that stemmed from an accident or sports injury can increase your risk of osteoarthritis.

4. Bone Deformities or Protein Deficiencies can increase the amount of stress on a certain area of the joint that will later lead to a breakdown of cartilage, and life-long protein or hormonal deficiencies diagnosed at a young age can eventually cause an early onset of osteoarthritis. 

5. Genetics has also proven to be a major factor in developing osteoarthritis, not only because of gene function, but lifestyles. Some are more prone to the breakdown of cartilaginous proteins and fibers. As far as genetically inherited lifestyles, that's probably more accurate when described as a nuture versus a nature problem. More often than not, children are going to have similar lifestyles to that of their parents. Parents who developed osteoarthritis due to being extremely active in their youth and adulthood likely passed those same habits onto their child, which could, in turn, potentially lead to the same osteoarthritic developments. 

Does meeting these risk factors necessarily mean you'll develop osteoarthritis? No. Like every medical condition, qualifying for a risk factor is not a guarantee. Simply worry about the ones you can control. 

OUR NEXT BLOG POST: What to do when you already have osteoarthritis.