My mom or dad has arthritis. Does that mean I'll get arthritis too?

Posted by Michael Edwards, MD, Rheumatology, Ridgeview Specialty Clinic on Dec 3, 2019 1:30:00 PM

ArthritisWell, the short answer is that you may or may not inherit the same type of arthritis that your parents have. There are a number of different types of arthritis and nearly all of them have a genetic component, which means that they can be inherited. Fortunately, in most cases this hereditary factor is not necessarily that strong and many types of arthritis can certainly skip at least a generation or two.

Can you reduce the risk of developing arthritis?

Since we can't control our genetic makeup, what preventive measures can be taken to reduce the risk of developing arthritis? One big one is smoking, which has been shown in many studies to both increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, as well as the severity of the disease. It can also hinder the response to treatment.

Obesity can also play a role in the development of many types of arthritis. One study has found that being overweight at the age of 18 can increase the risk of developing a form of arthritis known as psoriatic arthritis, which is commonly associated with a skin condition known as psoriasis. Similarly, other research has demonstrated that weight loss can improve symptoms of psoriatic arthritis  and improve the effectiveness of treatment.

Obesity also likely plays a role in the development of osteoarthritis, especially involving weight bearing joints such as the lower back, hips and knees.

Excessive consumption of alcohol can heighten the risk of developing gout, which is an extremely painful and destructive type of arthritis. Recent studies have also suggested that a diet that is high in refined sugars, such as high fructose corn syrup, can also increase the risk of gout.

Is there any truth to the myths about arthritis ?

Are there any myths that can be dispelled about triggering factors for arthritis?  Regular exercise, including moderate running, has not been shown to increase the risk of arthritis, though injuries to a joint certainly can trigger secondary joint damage. And, as annoying as it might be for the person sitting next to you, cracking your knuckles has not been shown to cause arthritis and in fact seems to be quite harmless.  

What treatment options are available?

There are dozens of different types of arthritis and treatments are tailored to each type. Treatment is highly individualized to the type of arthritis and the patient's general health condition. Patients can seek a referral from their primary care provider for treatment by a specialist but a referral for specialist treatment is not always necessary.

Contact your primary care provider for more information about arthritis or schedule an appointment with a rheumatologist to learn what treatment options are available and what will work best for you.

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Topics: Primary Care, nutrition/diet, Fitness/activity, Specialty Care

Medical and health information presented here is intended to be general in nature, and should not be viewed as a substitute for professional advice. Please consult with a health care professional for all matters relating to personal medical and health care issues. In case of an emergency, please call 911. 

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