What Causes Arthritis?

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What Causes Arthritis?

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for arthritis. This is because the broad category that we call arthritis is made up of a number of conditions all with different causes which then require different treatments. Before you can know what you’re treating, it is essential to understand the underlying cause for your specific form of arthritis pain.

Both genetic and environmental factors can cause the onset of various types of arthritis. The risk of arthritis does increase with age but gender also plays a role. Women and men are likely to suffer from different forms of arthritis. Increased bodyweight may also play a part especially with forms of the condition that affect the joints in lower extremities which are under the stress of the excess weight. An injury to a joint may also increase the risk for developing arthritis, including damaged caused by repetitive strain such as with a work situation.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta over 50 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis. The two most common forms are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis which, combined, affect nearly 30 million people. Women are more likely to receive a diagnosis than men. Arthritis limits physical activity and 44% of individuals diagnosed with the condition report that they are unable to participate in active hobbies.

Let’s take a closer look at several arthritis conditions and their underlying causes.


This most common form of arthritis is considered a wear and tear condition that is associated with aging. As the tissues that cushion the joints in areas such as the hips or knees begin to wear away, it can cause pain, swelling, and discomfort.

The cartilage that protects joints during movement can deteriorate over time. At first the cartilage becomes rough but eventually it will wear away all together. When this happens the bone will rub directly against bone.

While osteoarthritis is connected with aging and the long-term deterioration of the protective tissues between joints it doesn’t only affect the elderly. Other causes can include injuries, improper lift techniques, and repetitive motions.

Rheumatoid arthritis

This arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation and affects small joints such as those in the hands and feet. This condition, unlike osteoarthritis, is caused when the body’s immune system attacks otherwise healthy cells.

Rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining between joints which causes painful swelling and inflammation and can even lead to joint deformity over time. While this is happening the tendons and ligaments that hold the affected bones together for natural movement will stretch and weaken.

Since this form of arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, there is no way to prevent it from occurring. However, individuals can use a variety of techniques to help alleviate pain in their joints during flare-ups.


Another autoimmune condition categorized as a form of arthritis is lupus. The body’s immune system also targets healthy tissues in the joints but also other parts of the body including the kidneys, brain, heart, and blood cells. Lupus can also affect the skin of the face causing a rash that leads to a scar which is common in many patients dealing with the condition.

Some people have a genetic predisposition to lupus. There are also environmental triggers that will signal the disease to activate in the body. These triggers include sunlight and some medications such antibiotics and drugs used to control blood pressure.

There is no cure for lupus but individuals can learn to control the symptoms and even live symptom free throughout their lives.

Juvenile arthritis

A form of rheumatoid arthritis, this condition affects individuals typically under the age of 16. Severe cases of the disease can affect normal growth. Like rheumatoid arthritis this condition affects the joints causing inflammation.

As with adult-onset rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. It occurs when the immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues in the joints. The reason this happens is still unknown, but some studies have shown that both heredity and environment play a part. It is also believed that some gene mutations may also cause individuals to be susceptible to environmental factors that trigger the disease such as certain viruses.

Many young patients only experience the symptoms for a short time, while others are affected by the condition for the rest of their lives. As with rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, there is no cure but there are many ways to control the pain.


When uric acid builds up in the system, it can cause sharp crystals to develop in the body and be deposited in joints in the extremities. It most commonly affects the joint in the big toe and causes excruciating pain and sensitivity to even light pressure. Uric acid is a waste product and is typically eliminated from the body through urination. However, if the kidneys are unable to process it correctly it can build up in the system.

These sharp urate crystals form around the joints causing intense pain. There is no actual cure for gout but patients can manage the condition by eliminating alcohol and moderating the amount of protein in their diet.

While there aren’t any specific cures for any of these forms of arthritis patients can learn to manage the symptoms and reduce their pain or even live pain free. Because these conditions affect more than just the immediate areas, it is important to embrace the entire human experience to treat them properly. Increased pain caused by any form of arthritis can lead to depression, anxiety, or a decreased desire to do activities that were once the cornerstone of someone’s life. Embracing an overall health and wellness approach that incorporates nutrition, exercise, and mental well-being can mean the difference between suffering and thriving. Since there isn’t a one-size-fits-all treatment for these multiple forms of arthritis, the inclusion of a holistic health approach to your existing lifestyle can increase your daily engagement and provide a foundation for more energy and less pain.

We’d love to hear from you. Have you had experiences with any specific forms of arthritis?

Image by Ginny via Flickr


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About the Author:

At Holistic Pain, we have a passion for helping you and those who around you who suffer from pain find relief. Part of that passion extends to education and transparency. In our Holistic Pain blog, we focus on new research studies, along with our own tips, for maintaining and improving your quality of life, even with pain.

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