Is Developing Arthritis Inevitable as We Age?

Is the Disease Inevitable?

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You likely know someone who has arthritis. You may have a family member with one or more of the different types of arthritis. Have you ever wondered if you will get arthritis? Have you wondered if it is inevitable?

If you have already been diagnosed with the disease, is it concerning that your children or future children may inherit certain genes associated with arthritis? We can dice up hypothetical scenarios a million different ways. Ultimately, the question is 'who gets arthritis?' What do we know about who gets it?

Arthritis Statistics

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), arthritis affects 52.5 million U.S. adults -- that's more than one in 5. To correct the biggest misconception about arthritis right off the bat -- arthritis does not only affect old people -- but, it is true that the risk of developing arthritis increases with age. In fact, two-thirds of people with arthritis are under the age of 65. Here are more interesting statistics provided by the CDC:

  • Nearly one in 2 people may develop symptomatic knee osteoarthritis by the age of 85.
  • Two in 3 people who are obese may develop symptomatic knee osteoarthritis in their lifetime.
  • One in 4 people may develop symptomatic hip arthritis in their lifetime.
  • About 22.7% of adults in the U.S. report having doctor-diagnosed arthritis. (Data source 2010-2012)
  • About 49.7% of adults 65 years or older report having an arthritis diagnosis. (Data source 2010-2012)
  • An estimated 294,000 children (under age 18) have some type of arthritis or rheumatic condition. That's 1 in every 250 children in the U.S.
  • 26% of women and 19.1% of men report having doctor-diagnosed arthritis.
  • 2.9 million Hispanic people, 4.6 million non-Hispanic Blacks, 667,000 Asian/Pacific Islanders and 280,000 American Indians/Alaska Natives report having doctor-diagnosed arthritis.

 The prevalence of specific types of arthritis varies. For example, it is estimated that:

So, back to the question? Is arthritis inevitable. The answer is no. While osteoarthritis is considered the most common and most prevalent type of arthritis, it is not inevitable. It is known that approximately 70% of people over the age of 65 have evidence of osteoarthritis on x-rays, but they are not all symptomatic.

Risk Factors for Arthritis

There are risk factors that may affect the likelihood a person will develop arthritis. Generally, the more risk factors a person has, the greater the chance of developing arthritis. But, it's more complicated than that -- a person can develop arthritis even if they have none of the known risk factors.

The following risk factors increase the chance of developing osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis:

  • Age (increased age)
  • Female
  • Overweight
  • Smoker
  • Family history of arthritis
  • Previous joint infection or joint injury
  • Occupation that involves repetitive stress movements

The other important point you should know is that there are modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors. Age, gender, and family history are examples of non-modifiable risk factors. Modifiable risk factors include being overweight, smoking, or certain aspects of your job. If you lose weight, stop smoking, or make adjustments at work to take stress off of your joints, you may lower your risk of developing arthritis.

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