Arthritis is an umbrella term that covers over 100 different types of the disease. The name comes from two Greek words: “arthro,” meaning “joint,” and “itis,” meaning “inflammation.” That means all forms of arthritis, no matter the cause, lead to some type of joint inflammation.
At Interventional Pain Center in Legacy Office Park, Norman, Oklahoma, Dr. James Stephens and our staff treat all forms of joint pain, including arthritis. Seeing the large percentage of elderly people who have arthritis, many wonder if it’s hereditary and if they’ll develop it, too. Here’s what our expert has to say.
The four most common forms of arthritis explain how genetics plays a role in developing the condition.
By far the most common type of arthritis, OA becomes more prevalent as people age. That’s because it results from wear and tear on your joints caused by a lifetime of moving. Normally, slippery cartilage on the ends of your bones cushions them and prevents them from rubbing together. However, the cartilage wears away over time, exposing the bones. One bone grates against another, causing inflammation, pain, swelling, and a decreased range of motion.
Since OA’s cause comes exclusively from usage, it’s unlikely that genetics plays a major, if any, role in causing the condition.
RA is an autoimmune disease that leads to joint pain, inflammation, and other bodily damage. Unlike OA, which crops up one joint at a time as each one wears out, RA produces pain on both sides of the body simultaneously. It’s one way doctors can distinguish between the two forms.
With RA, your immune system attacks your body’s own cells, treating them as they would a foreign pathogen. It sends antibodies into the joint lining, causing inflammation of the synovial cells that cushion the joint and leading to joint pain, stiffness, and deformity.
Unlike with OA, where we see no genetic link, RA is more likely to develop in people whose DNA sequence contains HLA class II genotypes. But genes aren’t the only factors. People with this genotype are at increased risk of developing RA when they’re also obese and/or smoke; the environment does play a role.
Some 1 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with PsA, including about 30% of those with psoriasis, a skin disease that causes itchy, red, scaly patches around joints.
PsA is also an autoimmune condition, but here, the immune system targets both the skin and joints, which become stiff and painfully swollen. PsA shares some symptoms with RA, but PsA differences include red eyes (eye inflammation), scaly skin patches, and pitting of the fingernails and toenails.
PsA also likely has a genetic root. Having a parent with psoriasis triples your chance of getting psoriasis yourself, and that psoriasis increases your chances of developing PsA.
Gout is a form of arthritis that comes on suddenly, usually starting in the big toe joint. When you have too much uric acid in your blood, crystals form in the joint space.
Uric acid is a natural breakdown product of purines, primarily found in red meat, organ meats, and alcohol. An elevated uric acid level (hyperuricemia) can come from a purine-rich diet, obesity, diuretic medications, and chronic decreased kidney function. However, the risk of developing hyperuricemia may also have a genetic cause.
So, is arthritis hereditary? We’ve seen that, in some forms, genes cause a predisposition toward developing the disease, but they’re usually only triggered when coupled with environmental factors. So, yes, it can be hereditary under certain conditions.
If you’re dealing with joint pain and need relief, Interventional Pain Center is where you want to be. Call our office at 405-759-8407 to set up a consultation with Dr. Stephens, or use our online booking tool today.