Causes of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

Doctors and scientists do not know the exact reason why juvenile rheumatoid arthritis occurs. They do know that it is an autoimmune disorder, a condition in which the body mistakenly identifies some of its own cells and tissues as foreign; however, researchers do not know why the immune system turns against itself. At this point, scientists think that the specific juvenile rheumatoid arthritis causes may be related to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Causes of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis: An Introduction

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, which means that the body mistakenly identifies some of its own cells and tissues as foreign. The immune system (which normally helps to fight off harmful, foreign substances such as bacteria or viruses) begins to attack healthy cells and tissues. The result is inflammation -- marked by redness, heat, pain, and swelling.
Scientists and doctors do not know why the immune system turns against itself in children who develop juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis research scientists suspect that it is a two-step process. First, something in a child's genetic makeup gives him or her a tendency to develop juvenile rheumatoid arthritis; then an environmental factor, such as a virus, triggers the development of the disease.

Genetic (Inherited) Factors

About 10 percent of people with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis have a first-degree relative with the disease. This suggests that genetics plays a role in the cause of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Research scientists have also discovered that certain genes known to play a role in the immune system are associated with a tendency to develop juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Some people with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis do not have these particular genes; and still others have these genes but never develop the disease.
These somewhat contradictory data suggest that a person's genetic makeup plays an important role in determining if he or she will develop the disease, but that it is not the only factor. What is clear, however, is that more than one gene is involved in determining whether a person develops juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and how severe the disease will become.
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Juvenile Arthritis

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