Causes of arthritis

Arthritis affects many people in the UK and around the world. It is a common condition which affects mainly older people but can also develop in children and teenagers.

No-one is certain as to what the exact cause (or causes) of arthritis are but there are few possible suggestions. These vary according to the type of arthritis, e.g. osteoarthritis.

Several of the causes of arthritis are included in our risk factors for arthritis section.

The causes of arthritis are discussed in these following sections:

  • Quick recap about arthritis
  • Potential causes of arthritis

Quick recap about arthritis

Each joint is held in place by strong ligaments and protected from friction by cartilage. The space inside the joint contains a fluid called ‘synovial fluid’which acts as a form of lubrication for both the joint and cartilage.

This mechanism enables the joint to move freely and in a variety of ways.

Basically, arthritis occurs if something goes wrong with your joint.

Potential causes of arthritis

Arthritis can be caused by a variety of reasons which will depend upon the type of arthritis you have. There are more than 100 different forms of this disease which means a wide variety of causes. These include:

  • Cartilage wears out (leads to osteoarthritis)
  • Trauma to the joint
  • Infection, e.g. virus
  • Autoimmune disease, e.g. ankylosing spondylitis, autoimmune hepatitis (leads to rheumatoid arthritis).
  • Build up of uric acid (leads to gout)
  • Smoking (can lead to rheumatoid arthritis)
  • Family history

These are common to many conditions.

These causes are discussed in more detail in our types of arthritis section.

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