Arthritis is a very common medical condition affecting around 10 million people in the UK. There are a few different forms of the condition, the most common being osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis usually causes pain, inflammation, and stiffness in your joints. However, arthritis can affect different joints and cause different symptoms from person to person. You can read about the symptoms of arthritis here. But what are the causes of arthritis?
In today’s post, we’ll focus on the causes of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. You can learn more about the condition by reading our in-depth guide, or if you’re more concerned about treatment, we also have an article focusing on your options.
Causes of Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of the condition, with nearly nine million cases in the UK. This condition causes pain and stiffness in your joints, which can come and go in episodes depending on your activity levels. In more severe cases, sufferers can experience frequent pain and stiffness.
With osteoarthritis, the protective cartilage on the ends of your bones breaks down. This will cause pain, swelling and problems when moving the affected joints. The area may also become inflamed due to the development of bony growths.
While the exact causes of arthritis aren’t totally clear, the NHS has outlined some of the common risk factors for osteoarthritis. They include:
- Age. The older you are, the more chance there is of you developing the condition.
- Joint Injury. If you’ve suffered from joint-related injuries in the past, or if you’re overusing your joint too soon after an injury, you could be putting yourself at risk. It’s important to rest after surgery and give injuries time to heal.
- Joint Pressure. High-intensity, physically demanding jobs can put too much pressure on your joints. This can be one of the causes of arthritis.
- Secondary Arthritis. Osteoarthritis may occur in joints which have already been affected by other conditions such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis.
- Obesity. Carrying extra weight puts extra pressure and stress on your joints, particularly your knees and hips, which we know can be one of the causes of arthritis. It’s important therefore to try and live a healthy lifestyle and to stick to a balanced diet.
- Family History. Osteoarthritis runs in families, although studies have not yet identified a single gene that is responsible for this.
- Gender. Women are more likely than men to develop osteoarthritis.
If you feel like you’re suffering symptoms of this condition, we advise that you visit your doctor as soon as possible.
Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis affects over 400,000 people in the UK, particularly those aged between 40 and 50-years-old. Like osteoarthritis, this form of arthritis commonly causes pain, swelling and stiffness of the joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. This means that your immune system attacks the cells that line your joints by mistake. As a result, your joints become swollen, painful and stiff. Eventually, this process can damage the joints, cartilage, tendons and nearby bone.
All of the above, without treatment, can lead to the joint losing its shape and alignment. At present, we don’t fully understand the causes of rheumatoid arthritis. However, there are a few risk factors which can increase your risk of developing the condition:
- Hormones. Rheumatoid arthritis affects three times more women than men. This may be because of the hormone oestrogen.
- Smoking. As with several long-term medical conditions, one of the biggest risk factors is smoking.
- Genes. As with osteoarthritis, studies have suggested that this form of the condition can run in families. However, the risk of inheriting rheumatoid arthritis is still considered to be quite low.
- Age. According to Versus Arthritis (VA), around three-quarters of people with rheumatoid arthritis are of working age. Most people are aged between 40 and 60.
- Diet. Some reports have suggested that eating too much red meat and not consuming enough vitamin C can contribute to the causes of arthritis.
Learn More about Arthritis
If you’re wanting to learn more, please see our in-depth guide to arthritis. Alternatively, we also have articles focusing on the symptoms and the treatments available. For an overall look at medical conditions, we also have our guide to the 20 most common conditions which affect older people.
Having arthritis also means that you qualify for VAT Exemption when you order a personal alarm.
Personal Alarm Details
If you suffer from arthritis, we would highly recommend our personal alarm service. If you ever have a fall, you can call for assistance with the simple press of a button. Our 24-Hour Response Team will respond straight away and send help to your home. If you are prone to falling, we would advise upgrading to our fall detector, which automatically detects when the user has fallen and notifies our team.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated on 22 December 2020 to reflect current information.
Originally published March 2019.