Risk Factors of Rheumatoid Arthritis
The cause of Rheumatoid Arthritis remains unknown, but research has been able to identify several aspects of the disease. Because there is not yet a cure, your best defense against Rheumatoid Arthritis is to know what may contribute to its development and what you can do to prevent it. There are several genetic, environmental, and physical factors that may increase your risk of developing Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis has been linked to specific genes that play a role in the immune system, so those with a family history of rheumatoid arthritis may be more likely to develop it themselves. The risk of progressively worsening rheumatoid arthritis may be influenced by which version of the gene you have. However, genetic makeup is not the strongest risk factor. There are many RA patients who don't have this gene; likewise, there are many people who have this gene, but who do not have the condition.
For those who have the genetic makeup that makes them susceptible to rheumatoid arthritis, something in the environment must trigger its onset. This environmental agent is likely infection by a virus or bacterium. This is not to suggest that RA is transmitted from person to person; it's not something that can be "caught." Rather, an infection could lead to the onset of rheumatoid arthritis if you are genetically predisposed to it.
Rheumatoid arthritis is much more frequently found in women. It is estimated that there are two to four times as many women with rheumatoid arthritis as men. Women also stand a higher risk of developing the more severe form of the condition.
Scientists believe that there is a hormonal factor that increases the risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Obesity involves hormonal change, and, although the risk is not fully understood, there may be a connection between obesity and rheumatoid arthritis. One study suggests that women with a higher body mass index may have an increased risk of RA. Obesity can also worsen symptoms as excess weight puts more pressure on the joints and may exacerbate the breakdown of joint tissue.
Though Rheumatoid Arthritis is often associated with the elderly, people of any age can develop the disease. Its onset is common in people between the ages of 20 and 45. However, children can develop Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Research is ongoing, but it may be helpful to know a few other factors that may influence your risks:
- Occupation: A study conducted in California found that rheumatoid arthritis was more likely to lead to disability in people who work in assembly or installation.
- Smoking: Smoking is considered to be linked to rheumatoid arthritis. A study conducted in Sweden found that people who smoke are more likely to develop RA.
- Injury: No link has been found between previous injuries and the immune system changes associated with RA. However, serious knee injuries can deteriorate cartilage and add to joint damage during arthritis.
- Race: While people of any race or ethnicity can develop RA, some research has shown that the susceptible immune system gene linked to RA occurs more frequently in Caucasians than African-Americans.
Now that you know the risks, you know there are only a few that you are able to control. If you develop rheumatoid arthritis, early diagnosis and treatment is the key to managing it and enjoying a high quality of life. Consider a safe and natural treatment that has no side effects.
Photo Credit: Chris Pirillo