Factors that Increase Risk of Getting Arthritis
Arthritis is common; in fact, more than 1 in 4 US adults have arthritis. Some behaviors and characteristics, called risk factors, increase an adult’s likelihood of getting some types of arthritis or making it worse. You can control some risk factors, and others you cannot. By changing the risk factors you can control, you can decrease your risk of getting arthritis or making arthritis worse. Learn about known risk factors and what you can do to lower your risk of developing arthritis.
Risk Factors You Can Control
Modifiable risk factors are risk factors that you can control. Making lifestyle changes can decrease your risk of getting some types of arthritis or making arthritis worse.
Overweight and Obesity
People who are overweight or obese are more likely to get knee osteoarthritis than people who are not overweight. Excess weight can also make knee osteoarthritis worse. Extra weight puts more stress on joints, particularly weight-bearing joints like the hips and knees.
- What you can do: Maintain a healthy weight. Healthy eating and physical activity can help you lose weight and stay at a healthy weight. Learn how you can eat healthy and safely exercise with arthritis.
Many microbial agents, like bacteria and viruses, can infect joints and potentially cause the development of some types of arthritis.
- What you can do: See your doctor right away if your joints are swollen, warm, or red. It might be an infection.
Joint injury or overuse such as knee bending and repetitive stress can damage a joint and contribute to the development of osteoarthritis in that joint.
- What you can do: Protect your joints from injuries by doing special exercises for those joints. Visit the OA Action Alliance website for exercises to prevent knee injuries [PDF-3.46MB].
Occupations that involve repetitive knee bending and squatting are associated with osteoarthritis of the knee.
- What you can do: Make sure your worksite is free of fall hazards and has the space, equipment, and tools that fit your physical ability and limitations. Learn about ergonomics and musculoskeletal disorders from CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
Cigarette smoking increases a person’s risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and can make the disease worse. It can also cause other medical problems. Smoking can also make it more difficult to stay physically active, which is an important part of managing RA and other types of arthritis.
- What you can do: Stop smoking. Get help by visiting I’m Ready to Quit on CDC’s Tips From Former Smokers website.
Risk Factors You Cannot Control
Non-modifiable risk factors are risk factors that you cannot control. These include:
Your risk for most types of arthritis increases as you get older.
Most types of arthritis are more common in women, including osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and fibromyalgia. Gout is more common in men. Experts don’t know exactly why women are at higher risk for developing most types of arthritis, or why men are at higher risk for developing gout.
Genetics and Inherited Traits
People born with specific genes are more likely to develop certain types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematous (SLE), and ankylosing spondylitis. These genes are called HLA (human leukocyte antigen) class II genotypes. These genes can also make your arthritis worse. Experts do not know why people with these genes are at higher risk for developing arthritis or why it can make their arthritis worse.
- Page last reviewed: May 7, 2018
- Page last updated: July 2, 2018
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