Rheumatoid Arthritis: Risk Factor, Symptoms and Causes

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system of your body mistakenly attacks the joints.

Updated: September 29, 2019

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system of your body mistakenly attacks the joints.  Immune system normally protects the health of your body by attacking foreign substances like bacteria and viruses.
The tissue that lines the inside of joints (synovium) get thicken, resulting in swelling and pain in and around the joints. Inflammation is the main cause for this. The synovium makes a fluid that lubricates joints and helps them move smoothly. Left untreated, cartilage, the elastic tissue that covers the ends of bones in a joint, as well as the bones can get damaged.
Loss of cartilage can result in reducing the joint spacing between bones. Joints can become loose, unstable, painful and lose their mobility. Joint deformity also can occur which cannot be reversed. Therefore, early diagnosis and aggressive treatment to control RA is always advisable.
Rheumatoid arthritis most commonly affects the joints of the hands, feet, wrists, elbows, knees and ankles which is usually symmetrical. RA is also called a systemic disease as it can affect entire body systems, such as the cardiovascular or respiratory systems.

Risk Factor of Rheumatoid Arthritis:

Being Female:

Womens are seems to be more effected by RA compare to men and RA most commonly begins between ages 30 and 60.

Family History:

Having a family member with RA increases the risk of having RA. Children born to mothers with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) appear to have an increased risk of RA. However, this risk factor is very rare.

Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis:

People with RA may not initially see redness or swelling in the joints, but they may experience tenderness and pain. The most common symptoms are:

  • Joint pain, tenderness, swelling or stiffness for six weeks or longer
  • Morning stiffness for 30 minutes or longer
  • Small joints such as wrists, certain joints of the hands and feet are affected
  • More than one joint is affected
  • The same joints on both sides of the body are affected

People with RA can also experience fatigue, loss of appetite and a low-grade fever along with pain.The symptoms and effects of RA may come and go. But increased inflammation and other symptoms called a flare can last for days or months.
Persistently high levels of inflammation can cause problems throughout the body which include:


Dryness, pain, redness, sensitivity to light and impaired vision are the symptoms for eyes.


Dryness and gum irritation or infection can happen in mouth.


Small lumps under the skin over bony areas called Rheumatoid nodules can occur.


Inflammation and scarring of lungs can lead to shortness of breath.

Blood Vessels:

Inflammation of blood vessels that can lead to damage in the nerves, skin and other organs.


A reduction in red blood cells count leading to Anemia.

Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis:

When the immune system of your body mistakenly attacks the joints, it causes inflammation and joint damage. Genes, hormones and environmental factors are involved in this abnormal response of the immune system to some extent.
A specific genetic marker called the HLA shared epitope controls immune responses. People with this genetic marker have greater chance of developing rheumatoid arthritis than do people without the marker.

Other genes connected to RA include:

  • STAT4, a gene that plays important roles in the regulation and activation of the immune system
  • TRAF1 and C5, are responsible for chronic inflammation
  • PTPN22, which is associated with both the development and progression of rheumatoid arthritis.

Not necessarily all people with these genes develop RA and not all people with the condition have these genes.

Other factors that may cause RA include:

  • infectious agents such as bacteria or viruses, which may trigger development of the disease
  • female hormones
  • obesity
  • response of the body to stressful events such as physical or emotional trauma
  • environmental factors such as exposure to cigarette smoke, air pollution, insecticides and occupational exposures to mineral oil and silica

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