Arthritis is the term for inflammation of one or more joints, which often causes stiffness and joint pain. Many people develop arthritis as they age, which can make it painful to remain active and can grow worse with age. There are many forms of arthritis, but the most common forms are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The cause of arthritis depends on the unique type of arthritis you have.
Causes of Osteoarthritis
The most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis is caused by wear and tear to the cartilage of your joints. Your cartilage is important for healthy joint function since it protects the ends of your joints and prevents the bone from grinding. As we age, this covering often wears down, which leads to the development of osteoarthrosis as we age. Generally, the cartilage is slowly damaged over time, but it can be worn down by an injury or infection.
Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by a far different trigger than osteoarthritis. This form of arthritis is actually an autoimmune condition, which means the body’s immune system attacks the lining of the joint capsule. This lining is known as the synovial membrane, and it encloses all parts of a joint. When the synovial lining is under attack by the body’s immune system, it can become inflamed and painful. Eventually, the inflammation can spread to the cartilage and bone of the joint.
Causes of Gout
Gout is common, but complex, form of arthritis. It can affect anyone, and is characterized by sudden attacks of severe pain, swelling, redness, and tenderness in the joints. The feet and toe joints are commonly affected by gout. This form of arthritis is caused by urate crystals accumulating in the joint, which can trigger the swelling and pain. These crystals form when you have high levels of uric acid in your blood. Your body naturally produces uric acid to break down substances called purines, but it also can be promoted by certain foods. If your body produces too much uric acid or your kidneys don’t excrete enough from your bloodstream, urate crystals can build up.
Risk Factors for Arthritis
While arthritis can happen to anyone, there are certain genetic and medical history factors that can increase your risk of arthritis. These factors include:
- Family medical history: Some forms of arthritis are genetic, which means they can be handed down through a family. If your parents or siblings have arthritis, it is likely that you may develop the disease. You may also be more genetically disposed to environmental factors that may trigger arthritis.
- Age: Most forms of arthritis affect people as they age, and have accumulated damage to their joints over many years.
- Sex: Women are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis, while men are more prone to gout.
- Previous joint injuries: Those who have injured a joint before, such as while playing a sport or in an accident, are more likely to develop arthritis later in that joint.
- Obesity: Extra weight can cause stress on your back, hips, knees, and other joints. This added wear can cause arthritis over time.
- Diet: A diet high in uric acid- and purine-rich foods can encourage the growth of urate crystals, which may lead to gout attacks over time.
- Medication: Some diuretics and low-dose aspirin, which can be used to treat high blood pressure, can increase uric acid levels. This also can occur with the use of anti-rejection drugs, which are prescribed to those who have undergone an organ transplant.
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