Arthritis is a disorder that affects the joints. The condition leads to inflammation, redness, swelling, pain and stiffness. People suffering from arthritis generally complain of pain in the different parts of the limbs, including the knees, hands, hips, fingers, ankles, and elbows. Arthritis is thus a broad term that covers approximately hundred diseases. The various arthritis causes range from age-related disorders, genetic caused, and lifestyle choices. In some cases, deterioration or breaking down of cartilage (the tissue covering the joints) results in arthritis. Disrupted bodily functions like the creation of uric acid crystals also cause inflammation, which ultimately leads to arthritis.
If left untreated, the long-term repercussions of arthritis include tissue damage and joint disability. In severe cases, patients may also need to undergo invasive surgeries and treatments, knee replacement, for instance. The disease can affect anyone at any point in life. But certain factors play a key role in influencing its onset. Knowing them the various arthritis causes and determining a treatment plan helps patients lead a normal life despite the condition.
Common Arthritis Causes
The risk of developing arthritis increases due to any of the following reasons:
- Old Age: The water content in the cartilage decreases with age. As a result, its ability to absorb shock and protect the joints gets compromised. Such degenerative effect leads to osteoarthritis. Also, in their old age, people often struggle with mobility which makes the ligaments and connective tissues of the joints inflexible and less elastic. The musculoskeletal changes caused due to aging decrease the range of motion and break down the cartilage which also leads to arthritis.
- Genes: Autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis include a genetic component. Due to its hereditary nature, it affects family members of arthritis patients. If your sibling, parent, or any other blood-relative has arthritis, the risk of getting the disease increases. Hence, when you experience symptoms such as pain and swelling, especially while you are still younger, your doctor generally examines your family history to understand the reason for pain in joints. The main genetic risk factor is variation in human leukocyte antigen (HLA), mainly the HLA-DR4 gene.
- Obesity: Excess weight strains all the prominent muscles in the body. Joint muscles bear the most impact, particularly the knees and ankles. The result is increased pressure that accelerates the process of wear and tears in joints and breaks down the cartilage rapidly. Another element causing obesity is fat accumulation, which releases inflammation-causing proteins. The proteins travel throughout the body, including joint muscles. The process causes inflammation and deterioration, which is the main reason for arthritis.
- Infections: Bacterial, viral, and fungal infections impact the entire body. They spread to different parts, including the joints. When this happens, you can develop septic arthritis. Infections also impact the immune system’s response which enables our body to fight bacteria and viruses. But sometimes, the immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissues. In such cases, you may experience pain and inflammation, leading to inflammatory arthritis.
- Injuries: Post-traumatic arthritis or osteoarthritis is caused by injuries. If an injury results in ligament tears, it results in cartilage damage, which is an early development stage of arthritis. Fractures also cause the cartilage to heal unevenly which affects the joint surface. Unresolved dislocation of the shoulder is another reason for pain in joints, which ultimately causes arthritis.
- Occupational Practices: When you repeat a particular motion for hours without relaxing, you overuse your joint muscles. Various occupational practices may require such repetitive movements. The long-term effect of such practice is the development of osteoarthritis. It is caused by the wear and tear of the cartilage due to the constant motion of a particular joint muscle. You can avoid this possibility by using ergonomic equipment, taking breaks, and exercising.
- Dysfunctional Immune System: The immune system is meant to release antibodies that attack harmful viruses and bacteria that enter your body. As an autoimmune response, the immune system may produce antibodies that attack the body’s tissues instead of fighting infections. When the attack impacts the tissues surrounding the joints, a thin layer of cells (synovium) becomes sore and inflamed. It releases chemicals that damage the bones, cartilage, tendons, or ligaments and cause rheumatic arthritis.
- Improper Diet: Food items that have added sugar and saturated fat mainly contribute to the risk of arthritis. They lead to obesity which puts pressure on the joint muscles. Additionally, foods high in purines increase the level of uric acid, which is the main reason for the arthritis condition known as gout. Some of them include red meat, refined flour, fried snacks, processed foods, gluten products, artificially preserved drinks, etc.
- Metabolic Abnormalities: Metabolic disorders give rise to abnormal chemical reactions in the body. Due to this reaction, the body absorb too much or too little of nutrients. Such disrupted metabolism may lead to obesity, which directly affects joint functions and causes inflammation and pain. When it comes to nutrient deficiency, weakened bones increase the risk of osteoarthritis.
- Sedentary Lifestyle: A sedentary lifestyle is the most common reason for pain in joints. Inactivity for an extended period puts pressure on the joints, which results in wear and tear and loss of flexibility. Such stress on joint muscles also leads to the overproduction of glucose which causes inflammation in the cartilage. All these abnormalities impede movement and lead to various health concerns, including arthritis.
- Smoking: Smoking has been linked to the development of autoimmune diseases like arthritis. It reduces the blood supply to the bones, leading to weakened bone mineralisation. Tobacco smoke also causes the body to release cytokines which are linked to inflammation of joints. Additionally, the inflammation caused by smoking weakens the immune system and, makes it attack the healthy tissues. All these are risk factors of rheumatic arthritis.
- Gender: Arthritis is more prevalent in women than men. The reason for such disparity is the increased movement of tendons in women to accommodate childbirth, which makes their muscles elastic and prone to injuries. Besides, women have wider hips, which directly affects their knees’ alignment. Other reasons for arthritis include distinct distributions of hormones and stress in both genders.
How is the cause of arthritis recognised?
Doctors examine your symptoms and perform a diagnostic examination to identify the reasons for arthritis. The tests conducted for diagnosis include X-rays, computerised tomography (CT scan), magnetic resource imaging (MRI), ultrasound, blood tests, joint fluid test, etc., based on your symptoms.
Can I control arthritis from occurring?
Yes, you can control arthritis causes related to your lifestyle habits and prevent the possibility of developing arthritis to some extent. Some changes you can implement include avoiding tobacco products, reducing the risk of joint injuries, maintaining a healthy body weight, and doing low-impact exercises.
Does weather have an impact on arthritis?
Yes, if you already have arthritis, cold weather can cause an increase in joint pain. Also, the inactivity in a cosy climate aggravates the symptoms of arthritis. You can control such impact with heat therapy, exercising, and dressing in warm clothes. If the condition persists, you can speak to your doctor for effective methods of management.
What should a diet for arthritis patients include?
If you suffer from arthritis, your diet should include food items that promote a healthy body weight. You can include nutrient-rich foods like carrots, berries, oranges, grapes, green leafy vegetables, etc. Adding food products rich in vitamin C, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids are also good for arthritis. These food products provide excellent health benefits and reduce inflammation in the body.
Does playing football cause arthritis?
Yes, football is a high-impact sport that can potentially cause sports injuries, which is one of the reasons for arthritis. If the injury does not heal, over time, the cartilage in the joint deteriorates. It also has a cumulative effect of repetitive movement, leading to microtrauma and joints' overload.