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Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis


Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease with unknown causes. There is currently no known cure or means of preventing rheumatoid arthritis 51.

Evidence exists that rheumatoid arthritis may have a genetic component 1. Some people with rheumatoid arthritis have a genetic marker called HLA-DR4 32. The genetic marker may make it more likely that the immune system will attack the body's joint tissues, causing inflammation and pain. It is also possible that certain viruses, bacteria, or environmental contaminants might cause the immune system to malfunction and attack joint tissue.

Rheumatoid arthritis is frequently accompanied by Graves’ disease, an auto-immune disease of the thyroid. In fact, many people with endocrine disorders, such as diabetes and hypothyroidism, have some symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Individuals with Graves’ disease and Hashimoto's thyroiditis have higher than average occurrences of rheumatoid arthritis; researchers suspect there is a link between the conditions 32.
Many people with rheumatoid arthritis also develop osteoporosis, a disease characterized by loss of bone density 32. Exercise helps to slow, and sometimes reverse bone loss due to osteoporosis. To learn more about exercise, visit the Exercise and Arthritis section on this site.

Rheumatoid arthritis increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Rheumatoid arthritis causes changes in body mass index, cholesterol levels, insulin resistance, and blood pressure consistent with metabolic syndrome 12. Individuals with the disease have a high prevalence of preclinical atherosclerosis.  The prevalence of atherosclerosis is independent of traditional risk factors such as age, serum cholesterol level, smoking history, and hypertension 42.

No known cure for rheumatoid arthritis exists however; many treatment options are available which help slow the progress of symptoms. Rheumatoid arthritis tends to wax and wane, and in rare cases moves into remission 3. It is essential for someone with rheumatoid arthritis to seek medical assistance to plan their treatment course.

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