The rheumatoid arthritis or rheumatoid (RA) is an autoimmune disease, which is caused by antibodies directed against the joints of small and medium size, creating inflammation, pain and joint deformity. If not treated in time, this disease can lead to functional disability and prostration due to lack of joint mobility and pain.

Along with joint symptoms, patients may have cutaneous, pulmonary, and hematological manifestations associated with the autoimmune component of their disease. Although there is no cure for this disease, there is a treatment that controls it and can prevent deformity and functional disability of the joints.

Risk factors for developing rheumatoid arthritis

Although the exact cause that produces the disease is not known, it is known that the sum of genetic factors and environmental factors produces an ideal state to develop rheumatoid arthritis , so many people wonder what are the risk factors for developing rheumatoid arthritis and if it can be prevented by avoiding some risk factors.

Genetic factors

The genetic component plays an important role in the development of this pathology. Studies have shown that there is a greater predisposition to suffer from rheumatoid arthritis if there are relatives in the first line of consanguinity (father, brother or son) who have rheumatoid arthritis or another autoimmune pathology such as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, Celiac Disease or Inflammatory Bowel Disease, etc.

Children of people with autoimmune diseases are three times more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis compared to a child of a healthy person. On the other hand, an identical twin, the brother of a person with rheumatoid arthritis , has a 30% probability of developing this disease.

At present, more than 10 genes that could be related to the appearance of rheumatoid arthritis are being studied , being possible targets for its therapeutic intervention.

Environmental or environmental factors

Although the hereditary component is highly relevant, there are people with the disease who do not have relatives with autoimmune disease. In them, the modifiable and environmental risk factors are very important in the course of this disease.

  1. Smoking

People who smoke are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis compared to non-smokers. Smoking is the only modifiable risk factor that has been shown to be directly related to the development of Rheumatoid Arthritis.

  1. Female hormones

According to studies, women are almost three times more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than men. This is probably due to the presence of female hormones, but the use of oral contraceptives, pregnancy, or hormone replacement therapy has not been shown to trigger their onset.

  1. Presence of another autoimmune pathology

The fact that the person has an immune disease increases the likelihood of developing rheumatoid arthritis. This is evidenced in patients with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus for example and can coexist in a pathology called Rupus or Ruphus.

  1. Age

Rheumatoid Arthritis can appear at any age, but it is most common in childbearing age between 25 and 45 years of age.

  1. Obesity

Studies have revealed that overweight or obese people are more likely to suffer from arthritis from any cause (infectious, autoimmune, etc.).

  1. Ethnic origin

Epidemiological studies have shown that people of American and European origin are more likely to suffer from the disease compared to people of African origin.

Other possible causes

Some trials have wanted to associate the use of coffee and alcohol with the appearance of Rheumatoid Arthritis, but this association has not been demonstrated with large studies.

Likewise, there are investigations that have tried to study the association between some viral and bacterial infections and the presence of an acute inflammatory response that could condition a generalized immune response against the joints.

Regarding diet, it has been described in small studies that a diet high in red meat and low in vitamin C can predispose to the development of this disease and a Mediterranean diet can have a protective factor.

Although the exact cause of Rheumatoid Arthritis is unknown, currently the sum of various factors, both non-modifiable and modifiable, causes this disease to develop. People of the female gender, between 25 and 45 years old, of American origin, with direct relatives with autoimmune pathology, have a greater predisposition to suffer from it, however, a person with the same characteristics who is a smoker will have three times more probability of developing it, for what is recommended to maintain a healthy lifestyle based on a balanced diet, avoiding the consumption of harmful substances such as tobacco and alcohol.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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