Updated 25 November 2016

Risks of osteoarthritis

Who gets osteoarthritis and who is at risk?


Osteoarthritis is the most common of all disorders of the joints. The first symptoms appear usually in the 4th decade, and 60 to 70% of people are affected by the 7th decade.

Early on, more women than men are affected by osteoarthritis, but this discrepancy is less marked in the elderly. There is a strong hereditary tendency, especially in the case of hand joints in women. There is evidence that genes coding for collagen components within cartilage may be abnormal, explaining the family clustering of this condition.

The earlier the onset and the greater the genetic factors, the greater the risks of developing osteoarthritis are. Patients with both parents affected will most certainly develop osteoarthritis.

Obesity is an independent risk factor for osteoarthritis of the knee, and may predict development of the condition 30 years later. Although mechanical loading is the obvious explanation for this link, other metabolic abnormalities associated with obesity may be involved.

Joint hypermobility (joints that stretch further than normal) is also an independent risk for the development of osteoarthritis. Some patients may have extreme hypermobility, leading to recurrent stress injuries and early osteoarthritis of weight-bearing joints.

Read more:

Obesity linked to osteoarthritis

Symptoms of osteoarthritis 

Treatment of osteoarthritis

Reviewed by Dr Ingrid Louw, MBChB, MMed (Int), rheumatologist/physician, (private practice), June 2011


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Professor Asgar Ali Kalla completed his MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 1975 at the University of Cape Town and his FRCP in 2003 in London. Professor Ali Kalla is the Isaac Albow Chair of Rheumatology at the University of Cape Town and also the Head of Division of Rheumatology at Groote Schuur Hospital. He has participated in a number of clinical trials for rheumatology and is active in community outreach. Prof Ali Kalla is an expert in Arthritis for Health24.

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