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Risk factors for and possible causes of osteoarthritis

Kenneth C Kalunian, MD
Section Editor
Peter Tugwell, MD
Deputy Editor
Monica Ramirez Curtis, MD, MPH


Osteoarthritis (OA) was previously thought to be a normal consequence of aging, thereby leading to the term degenerative joint disease. However, it is now realized that OA results from a complex interplay of multiple factors, including joint integrity, genetics, local inflammation, mechanical forces, and cellular and biochemical processes [1]. A discussion of how these factors interact to cause cartilage loss and related bony changes is presented separately. (See "Pathogenesis of osteoarthritis".)

Rarely, inherited conditions may predispose individuals to develop OA. For the majority of patients, OA is linked to one or more factors, such as aging, occupation, trauma, and repetitive, small insults over time. These associations are strongest for OA of the knee and hand and are less strong for the hip. How these factors interact with genetics and other factors in the development of OA remains unclear.

The risk factors for and possible causes of OA will be reviewed here. Clinical manifestations, classification, and diagnosis are presented separately. (See "Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of osteoarthritis".)

The management of OA, including nonpharmacologic approaches, pharmacologic treatment, and surgical therapies, is discussed separately. (See "Overview of surgical therapy of knee and hip osteoarthritis" and "Overview of the management of osteoarthritis".)


Multiple risk factors have been linked to osteoarthritis (OA) in epidemiology studies, including:

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Oct 06, 2017.
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