Rheumatoid Arthritis - Causes
Scientists across the world are still researching and enlisting numerous probable causes of RA but the exact cause has not been understood till date.
There are a number of theories which point towards various causative factors such as genetic inheritance, infectious cause, environmental factors, etc.
Increased incidence of RA in the family members of patients points towards the genetic nature of this disease. Certain genes have also been implicated as the cause for RA; however not all people suffering from RA carry these genes. On the other hand, there are also people who test positive for these genes but have no signs or symptoms related to RA. Thus, this is a clear evidence that it's not just genes that make one prone to RA, but there are other factors involved as well.
Infections (bacterial, viral or fungal) or certain factors in the environment are also suspected to be a trigger for an abnormal response by the immune system in an individual who is susceptible for RA.
Irrespective of what has triggered the onset of RA, the consequence is that there is an abnormal response by the immune system, whereby it mistakenly starts attacking joints, tissues surrounding the joints and other organs of the body. Over a period of time, this results in the destruction of cartilage and bone. There is a weakening of the tendons and ligaments around the joint, resulting in disturbed alignment of the joint.
Additionally, there are certain factors which can increase the risk of developing RA. Cigarette smoking increases the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis and giving up smoking can help in reducing this risk. Hormonal changes may cause the disease to flare up after pregnancy and during breast-feeding.