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What causes arthritis?

The cause of arthritis will depend on the type you have.

It is known that some types of arthritis can affect members of the same family. So, if a close relative has arthritis, it may make you more likely to get the condition. Researchers are currently investigating this in more detail.

Let’s look at the two most common forms of arthritis and the potential causes in more detail:

Osteoarthritis:

  • Age - developing osteoarthritis becomes more likely if you are over 40 years of age, this is normally due to wear and tear on your joints. In some people, the joints do not seem to be able to able to handle the wear and tear as well as in other people.
  • Lifestyle - if you work, or have worked in a physical job, for example, or if you’ve played a lot of sport, you may be at greater risk of developing osteoarthritis.
  • Injury - previous injuries to joints can make osteoarthritis more likely - this is called secondary arthritis.
  • Being overweight or obese - carrying excess weight puts more strain on your joints than normal.
  • Pre-existing conditions - if your joints are damaged because of another condition, it may mean you’re more prone to developing osteoarthritis.
  • Genetics - osteoarthritis may be inherited.
  • Gender - women are more prone to the condition than men.

Rheumatoid arthritis:

  • Immune system problems - the immune system attacks the joint capsule and other parts of the joint by mistake - it’s not understood why.
  • Smoking - rheumatoid arthritis is more common in smokers.
  • Hormones - the condition is more common in women, which is thought to have something to do with oestrogen, though there’s no conclusive evidence.
  • Genetics - the condition may run in families.

The cause for your arthritis may not be obvious. A doctor will be able to ask the right questions to establish whether the symptoms you have are due to arthritis or another condition.

Should the doctor identify that you have arthritis, they will be able to offer you advice on management of the condition and exercises that can help to keep joints mobile. You may be referred to a specialist, such as a rheumatologist or physiotherapist, for treatment or further investigations.