Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis
The exact cause or causes of rheumatoid arthritis are unknown. In recent research, however, scientists have considered a number of factors that may influence who develops rheumatoid arthritis. These include genetic, environmental, and hormonal factors. Although the causes are unknown, it is believed that the disease develops as a result of a combination of many factors.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. This means that for some reason the immune system mistakes a person's own cells as invaders and attacks them, causing damage. Similar to other autoimmune diseases, scientists still do not know the cause or causes of rheumatoid arthritis and why the immune system turns against itself. However, research over the last few years has begun to piece together the factors involved.
Based on recent research, it is believed that the main rheumatoid arthritis causes may be linked to a combination of:
- Genetic factors
- Environmental factors
Genetic (Inherited) Factors
About 10 percent of people with rheumatoid arthritis have a first-degree relative with the disease. This suggests that genetics plays a role in the cause of the disease. 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 rheumatoid arthritis. Some people with 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 rheumatoid arthritis, 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 rheumatoid arthritis and how severe the disease will become.