Over time, the affected joint may lose its normal shape, and bone spurs – small growths called osteophytes – might develop on the edges of the joint. Additionally, bits of bone or cartilage can break off and float inside the joint space, causing more pain and damage.
As OA progresses, it not only affects the physical structure of the joint but also the surrounding muscles, ligaments, and other supportive tissues, making movement challenging and often painful.
Understanding the underlying mechanisms and impacts of osteoarthritis is crucial in managing its symptoms and minimizing its progression.
Causes of Osteoarthritis
While the precise cause of osteoarthritis isn't fully understood, several factors have been identified that increase the risk of developing this condition. Here's a closer look at some of the primary causes and contributing factors:
Genetic Predisposition and Family History
Genetics play a notable role in osteoarthritis. Some people inherit genes that make them more susceptible to developing OA. If your parents or siblings have osteoarthritis, your chances of having it are increased.
While the exact genes linked to OA are still being studied, a family history of the disease suggests a hereditary component.
Age as a Significant Risk Factor
Age is undeniably a major risk factor for osteoarthritis. As people grow older, the cumulative wear and tear on the joints over the years increases the chances of developing OA.
While it can start as early as in one's 20s or 30s due to specific reasons, it's more commonly seen in people over the age of 50.
Impact of Joint Injuries and Overuse
An injury to a joint, whether it happened recently or years ago, can lead to osteoarthritis in the future. Athletes, for example, often put repeated stress on certain joints, which can lead to premature wear and tear.
Moreover, occupations that involve repetitive motions or place continuous stress on particular joints can increase the risk of OA.