What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Primary Rheumatoid Arthritis cause: a puzzle

The cause of Rheumatoid Arthritis is unknown. The actions of the disease process which have been observed are extremely complex. What would cause powerful immune cells to aim their destructive weapons at otherwise healthy tissues? And within the host body which feeds and houses them! Searching for the answer is like finding a few pieces to a jigsaw puzzle with no box lid. Most of the pieces are still missing and there is no picture of the solution. Here are of a few of the pieces which have been found already:

Rheumatoid Arthritis Genes

Rheumatoid Arthritis has a strong genetic component; it runs in families. Some genetic markers have been established which can identify those who are more likely to develop Rheumatoid Arthritis. However, since some people who carry these genes do not have RA, they may only mark susceptibility to the RA. This leads to the conclusion that there must also be other factors contributing to the development of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Not only do certain genes mark a propensity developing to Rheumatoid Arthritis, specific ones may also predict whether the severe form of the disease will develop. Genetic correlation is also higher in those who are seropositive with Rheumatoid factor antibody.

Rheumatoid Arthritis and hormones

There is also an obvious hormonal component to Rheumatoid Arthritis. Evidence for that is complex and fascinating. Consider the following: Women are 3 to 5 times as likely as men to fall victim, more likely to experience severe RA, and less likely to find remission. Breastfeeding and use of birth control hormones have each been found to delay onset of RA significantly. A curious number of women initially develop RA symptoms directly following childbirth, leading researchers to see childbirth as a potential hormonal trigger. Intriguingly, pregnancy often brings a temporary remission of symptoms in patients who have even severe forms of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Historically, women were aware of this remission, and often became pregnant intentionally in order to obtain a brief reprieve from the disease.  

Rheumatoid Arthritis and environmental triggers

Researchers believe that there may be an environmental trigger to the onset of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Again, it is like scientists find puzzle pieces one at a time and then have to guess where they could fit into a picture that cannot be seen. Some theorize that micro bacterium invade cells, triggering an immune response to destroy the affected tissue. Others postulate that a virus or bacterial infection may trigger the abnormal immune response. There have also been recent studies which have shown a possible relationship between the actions of histamines and Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms in animals. Histamines are chemicals which are released by immune cells to produce an allergic response, usually inflammatory in nature.

More RA triggers

Various studies have shown other things which statistically correlate with the onset of RA. One of those is a high level of stress during the months prior to onset, especially from experiencing a traumatic life event like a car accident, move, or death in the family. Another thing which increases risk is exposure to cigarette smoke at any time in life. Swedish scientists found other environmental factors which appear to be linked to Rheumatoid Arthritis are toxins like asbestos or various kinds dust. A recent study even associated living closer to traffic with higher incidence of RA. Since cigarette smoking does involve toxins, these two factors (dust and cigarette smoke) could actually be a single indicator for a chemical-type environmental trigger for Rheumatoid Arthritis. Some postulate that certain foods could be triggers. There may even be more than one pathway for the disease to become established.

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