A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.
It is possible to develop osteoarthritis with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing osteoarthritis. If you have a number of risk factors, ask yourdoctor what you can do to reduce your risk.
Specific Lifestyle Factor
- Weakness of the thigh muscles may increase your risk of osteoarthritis of the knee. Exercises that strengthen the thigh muscles may provide some protection against osteoarthritis.
You have an increased risk of developing osteoarthritis if you have or have had:
- Past injury to a joint
- Previous surgery to the joint
- History of infection in a joint
- Congenital defect or weakness in a joint
- Acromegaly (a pituitary disorder)
- Paget’s disease of bone
- Hemochromatosis (iron overload disease)
- Gout or pseudogout
- Bleeding into the joint (as occurs with hemophilia)
- 50% of people over the age of 65 have arthritis in at least one joint
- Over 80% of people over the age of 75 have arthritis in at least one joint
- Not all of these people will have significant symptoms
- Under age 45, more men than women have osteoarthritis
- Over age 55, more women than men have osteoarthritis
The tendency to develop osteoarthritis frequently runs in families.
Risk factors for developing osteoarthritis in specific joints are different for different ethnic backgrounds. For example:
- Caucasians have a higher overall risk of developing osteoarthritis than Asians.
- Osteoarthritis of the hip is less common in Chinese, Jamaican, and South African people of color, and Asian Indians; hip and knee osteoarthritis is more common among the Japanese.
- African-American women have more osteoarthritis of the knee and less osteoarthritis of the hand than do Caucasian women in the US.
You are more likely to develop osteoarthritis if you:
- Are overweight
- Work at a job or participate intensely in an athletic pursuit that requires a lot of lifting, squatting,or repetitive joint use
Arthritis Foundation website. Available at:
Conn’s Current Therapy. 54th ed. W.B. Saunders Company; 2002.
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at:
Manek NJ, Lane NE. Osteoarthritis: current concepts in diagnosis and management.
American Family Physician. 2000;51(6). Available at:
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