For more information, go to

What causes arthritis?

Back to Arthritis

As there are so many forms of arthritis, there isn't a single answer to this question. 

Most types of arthritis are caused by many factors acting together. You may be naturally more likely to develop certain disorders as a result of your genetic make-up. A variety of external factors may increase the risk further if you're susceptible to the condition in question. These include environmental factors – e.g. previous injury, infection, smoking, and occupations which are very demanding physically. But for many conditions there’s a strong element of chance.

Genetics and family risks

Most forms of arthritis run in families to a small extent. The way your body is made (based on the genes passed on from your parents) makes you more or less likely to develop the disease in question. Arthritis Research UK supports research that’s helping us to understand the genetic side of arthritis. We believe this could lead to the ability to prevent some forms of arthritis.

Lifestyle and trigger factors

Arthritis can start suddenly without any obvious cause, and at any age. Sometimes something in your lifestyle or medical history – or a combination of these – could be responsible. A number if factors may increase your risk of developing a condition if you’re already susceptible to it:

  • A physically demanding job can increase your risk of osteoarthritis, particularly if it involves heavy repetitive activity. 
  • A previous injury can also increase your risk of osteoarthritis.
  • Infections or an allergic reaction can cause short-lived arthritis.
  • Some foods may appear to make your arthritis worse, although your diet or a food intolerance are unlikely to cause arthritis.
Previous Next
Back to Arthritis

Search arthritis information

For more information, go to or call 0800 389 6692 to order the complete printed booklet.
Arthritis Research UK fund research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. You can support Arthritis Research UK by volunteering, donating or visiting our shops.