Risk Factors

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.

close up of woman's feet standing on a scale

Extra weight puts more stress on joints, particularly the hips and knees.

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.

Infection

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 Injuries

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.

Occupation

Occupations that involve repetitive knee bending and squatting are associated with osteoarthritis of the knee.

close up of a caucasian man's hands breaking a cigarette in half

Smoking increases your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Smoking

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:

grandmother and granddaughter holding flowers in garden

Your risk for most types of arthritis increases as you get older.

Age

Your risk for most types of arthritis increases as you get older.

Gender

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.

Risk Factors by Type of Arthritis

Learn about factors that increase your risk of developing specific types of arthritis.