Knowledge is power. Without early detection and proper care, rheumatoid arthritis can be a painful and limiting disease, leading to a significant reduction in one’s physical abilities and range of motion. Awareness of rheumatoid arthritis causes and risk factors is essential to living the best life possible with or without rheumatoid arthritis.
Causes. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a disease of the immune system where the body’s natural defenses incorrectly attack healthy joints and connective tissues. Inflammation and swelling of the joints is the result of the immune system’s misguided assault. In addition, tendons and ligaments can become compromised, weak and overstretched. The loss of proper joint alignment and swelling leads to further joint destruction and lack of mobility. Over time, the joint linings are worn away and the bones themselves can become damaged.
Possible disease triggers. Some yet-defined genetic link may be a contributor in the start or predisposition of rheumatoid arthritis in certain people. Disease triggers are thought to include ticks, viruses and perhaps even bacteria. However, the overall causal factors that begin the confusion of the immune system are unknown at this time.
Heredity may play a part. According to the Mayo Clinic, doctors do not believe that a specific RA gene causes rheumatoid arthritis. That means rheumatoid arthritis cannot be inherited directly. There does, however, seem to be evidence to support the susceptibility to acquiring rheumatoid arthritis if your mother, grandmother or other family member has been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. It is important to note that an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis does not mean that the disease is inevitable.
Smoking is a risk factor. Heavy and long-term cigarette smoking has been shown to increase your chance of developing rheumatoid arthritis — particularly if RA runs in the family. On the flip side, quitting smoking is very helpful in reducing the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
Gender, age factors. Both men and women can develop rheumatoid arthritis, although statistics show that women are two to three times as likely to have this type of arthritis. Also, many people assume that rheumatoid arthritis is a disease of the elderly. In actuality, the onset of rheumatoid arthritis is most common in people between the ages of 30 and 50. The onset of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis can occur at any time during childhood.