Causes and Risk Factors for Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis results from deterioration of cartilage within the joint. The major risk factor is age, and approximately 70 percent of people over the age of 65 show some degree of osteoarthritis upon x-ray. Gender (the condition is more common in women) and joint injury and trauma (e.g., fracture) also are significant risk factors.

Patients who have another form of arthritis (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis) also have an increased risk for developing osteoarthritis.

Other risk factors include the following:

  • Congenital or developmental disorders (e.g., hip displacement, Legg-Calve Perthes disease, bone dysplasia)
  • Genetic (hereditary) abnormalities
  • Metabolic or endocrine disorders (e.g., diabetes, hypothyroidism, Wilson's disease)
  • Muscle weakness
  • Obesity (also may increase the rate of cartilage loss and speed progression of osteoarthritis)
  • Repetitive overuse (e.g., occupational, recreational, athletic activity)

Publication Review By: John J. Swierzewski, D.P.M.

Published: 31 May 2006

Last Modified: 28 Sep 2015