There are several different types of arthritis, but the three most common are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout. Heredity may play a part in all three, but there are a few things you can do to minimize the risk and/or damage they cause.
Te first thing you need to do is find out what type(s) of arthritis you're at risk for. Mitigating the risks differ between the three types, as does treatment. If you can no longer find out from your family, you may be able to get more information by talking to your doctor. The doctor also needs to be aware of your family history.
What it is: This is usually considered a metabolic disorder as well as a form of arthritis. It is caused by uric acid crystals in your joints, usually striking the right big toe first. It is extremely painful, walking may be difficult or impossible. Uric acid is a waste product from purine, a substance found in most proteins. It is usually filtered out by the kidneys, but if there is a lot or the kidneys have been damaged, it circulates through the blood. As it does so, it clumps together in crystals.
What you can do: Moderating the amount and type of protein you consume is a good place to start. Organ meat is the highest in purine, making it the least desirable type of protein. There are lists on-line of which foods contain what amount of purine. Dehydration and some medications can also cause the painful problem, including aspirin.
What it is: Most of the time, this is caused by general wear and tear on your joints or by injuries. However, if your grandmother had it, chances are good you will develop it as well. This is even more likely if you're female. The cartilage in the joints start to wear out and bits of it may break off. This can cause pain and swelling. Osteoarthritis can strike any joint, including the vertebrae. If it gets bad enough, joint replacement may be required.
What you can do: Your doctor may suggest you start taking calcium supplements to prevent or put off onset. It's also a good idea to take care of your joints. Watch repetitive injury problems, wear shoes that will provide cushioning as well as support and try not to do high impact activities. If you choose to do the latter, ask your coach or your doctor how to mitigate this impact to prevent damage.
What is it: RA is an auto-immune disorder. Your body's immune system doesn't recognize the joints as part of the body and attack. It can strike any joint and at any age, child or adult. Usually, the smaller joints are attacked first, though all are at risk.
What you can do: Early, aggressive treatment is the best way to mitigate the damage this disease can cause. Symptoms include pain in the joints, red and puffy hands, swelling in joints that is painful to the touch, fever and weight loss. Other symptoms may also occur.