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What causes rheumatoid arthritis?

What causes rheumatoid arthritis?

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Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by a malfunction in the immune system, in which the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in your own body - in this case in your joints. Scientists are not sure why this happens, but the nature of RA puts it in the category of “autoimmune diseases”.

Scientists are studying the potential causes:

  • Genetics: some people have genes that set them up to develop rheumatoid arthritis - although carrying these genes is not enough to develop the disease
  • Triggering event: the condition is set off when the body reacts to a stressful period in life, an infection, or something else in the environment 
  • Gender: researchers think that female hormones might be a trigger as well, as 70% of people with RA are women
  • Other risk factors: someone who smokes or has a relative with RA is also at higher risk of developing the disease