RA Runs in Families

RA runs in families: Part 1

I’ve always heard RA runs in families

I have always said that the people you meet when living with this disease—or because you do—are the greatest side effect. That’s one of the things I would not change even though I hate rheumatoid disease. Some of my best friends connected with me first through RAW or its social channels.

A few years back, I met this spunky blonde named Shannon. She took it upon herself to persuade her city council to create a proclamation for Rheumatoid Awareness Day. It’s not hard to imagine how a few years later she ended up on the RPF’s board of directors.

RA runs in families—and makes friends into family

Last year, Shannon and I were finally together in person when she traveled with her husband to Arizona for the US Pain Foundation’s Real Hope, Real Heroes Gala. My significant other was my daughter KB—we had great fun chatting about wedding gowns since Shannon’s daughter and KB were both getting married last fall. Coincidentally, we were all named “Young” at the time.

I learned about Shannon’s other daughter when she volunteered to do some work for RPF. Sharing our two—each—beautiful young daughters was just another link between us. Soon there would be one more that we did not expect.

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RA runs in families—but what about our families?

RA runs in families

When I heard the news of a new at-home RA test, my daughters were my first thought. Testing for three antibodies instead of just one—good idea. And not having to convince my daughters to find a doctor who believed they were at risk for RA, actually go to the doctor, and then go to the lab—great idea.

Meanwhile a similar train of thought at Shannon’s house thousands of miles away. Suspicious symptoms in her mom should be checked out—hmm, good idea. Make sure the girls are ok, too—great idea.

Over the next couple of weeks, our family members got the test kits in the mail. They each pricked their fingers and gathered a few drops of blood in a tiny vial. And they mailed the kits back to imaware™. And then we waited for the reports.

Yes, I also pricked my finger—but let’s save that story for another day.

They say RA runs in families—it that true?

You’ll read many places that rheumatoid arthritis cannot be inherited. Technically, that’s true because there is not one specific “RA gene” to be passed down in DNA. However the old adage “RA runs in families” is actually more accurate. Through our parents, we inherit variations of genes and combinations of those variations can confer risk—not the disease itself.

Harvard genetics professor Dr. Robert Plenge says that children of people with rheumatoid disease (PRD) have a five times greater risk of the disease. The risk of RD / RA in the general population is one percent—it is 5% in children of PRD. According to Dr. Plenge, there are probably dozens of genes that each contributes a very small risk. The other factor, which we have discussed on RAW, is triggers—things we are exposed to which also increase risk of the disease.

Next time, we’ll finish our story. BUT MEANWHILE, WHAT’S YOUR STORY? Does RA run in your family? Are you worried about your own children or grandchildren? Share in the comment box below.

Click to read part 2: Possible Rheumatoid Arthritis

Recommended reading

Kelly Young

Kelly Young is an advocate providing ways for patients to be better informed and have a greater voice in their healthcare. She is the president of the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation. Kelly received national acknowledgement with the 2011 WebMD Health Hero award. Through her writing, speaking, and use of social media, she is building a more accurate awareness of Rheumatoid disease aka Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) geared toward the public and medical community; creating ways to empower patients to advocate for improved diagnosis and treatment; and bringing recognition and visibility to the Rheumatoid patient journey. In 2009, Kelly created Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior, a comprehensive website about RA of about 950 pages and writes periodically for other newsletters and websites. Kelly served on the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media Advisory Board. There are over 42,000 connections of her highly interactive Facebook Fan page. She created the hashtag: #rheum. Kelly is the mother of five, a home-schooler, Bible teacher, NASA enthusiast, and NFL fan. You can also connect with Kelly by on Twitter or YouTube, or LinkedIn. She has lived over nine years with unrelenting Rheumatoid disease. See also http://www.rawarrior.com/kelly-young-press/

14 thoughts on “RA Runs in Families

  • February 28, 2019 at 3:11 pm

    It definitely runs in my family! My maternal grandmother had RA and was on daily prednisone. My mother has more than Osteoarthritis but she prefers to live in denial. I have seronegative inflammatory poly arthritis which for today’s purposes is being treated like RA. Definitely praying I didn’t pass this on to my son.

  • February 28, 2019 at 4:22 pm

    I guess my greatest fear overall is passing RAD to my kids and grandkids. More so than the fact of what has and may happen to my body. Neither parent had it or my brother. My sister and I both have it. So I started looking back through the family and found a link. My mothers parents didn’t have it or any of their brothers or sisters that we know of but my grandpa’s brother had three daughters who all suffer with RAD. Two of my grandsons also have a grandparent from the other side of the family who has it. I try not to worry to much but knowing what I do about this well let’s just say that is a living nightmare. Hopefully they will never have to know and hopefully they will find a cure. My crusade is, Warriors and Angels. We are all warriors and some are now angels.

  • February 28, 2019 at 4:55 pm

    Thank you so much for this article. You have no idea how it hits home.
    My mother had R.A, Raynaud, Sclerodema and most possible fibromyalgia. She passed away in 2005 at the young age of 73.
    I was tested back in 2000 by her Rheumatologist for Scleroderma and tested negative. Because the doctor did not believe that RA was inherited and because I was not her patient per se, she refused to test me for RA.
    I now live with sero-negative RA, Fibromyalgia and I believe I also have mild Raynaud. I still don’t have a doctor because my GP believed that my symptoms are all in my head.
    I’ve known all my life that RA is inherited… I wish doctors would have too and paid closer attention to my/our symptoms.

  • February 28, 2019 at 8:08 pm

    I’ve no idea if it runs in mine or not. Neither mom or dad had RA, three of my grandparents passed before I was 10 and the one who lived into my adulthood had everything. I can remember a doctor telling her she had a fever and by the time she got home she had typhoid fever. So when she had arthritis she had Rheumatoid arthritis and then Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and then Lupus and it went on and on. You had know Isabelle, but she was a hoot.

    Heck she may have had malaria or mumps as a child, no one knows for sure.

    Some things are too fun to know the truth.

  • February 28, 2019 at 10:36 pm

    I don’t know of anyone in my family having RA. Not my mother, grandmother or great grandma. As a matter of fact, I only found out I had RA when my daughter was diagnosed with it and told me to get tested. I don’t even understand it…

  • March 1, 2019 at 6:46 am

    What about people like me who are sero-negative?

  • March 1, 2019 at 7:47 am

    smoking – some evidence suggests that people who smoke are at an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis

  • March 1, 2019 at 8:24 am

    My Dad had Sarcoidosis, his dad ( died before I was born) had some kind of crippling arthritis ( no one alive knows what kind), my mom had severe osteo arthritis and psoriasis, a second cousin of mine has RA, and there is a spattering of different autoimmune disorders in my extended family. Neither of my brothers have chronic autoimmune but both of them and my mom were treated for non Hodgkin’s lymphoma. As a teenager I had severe mononucleosis and in my 30’s I developed psoriasis. Now I am being treated successfully for RA with Orencia and MTX. I don’t have any autoimmune symptoms with treatment.

    • March 1, 2019 at 8:52 am

      It’s wonderful that treatments are helping you. That’s amazing.

  • March 4, 2019 at 7:04 pm

    My maternal great grandmother had RA, was in a wheelchair most of her adult life.
    My mother has psoriatic arthritis.
    I developed RA about a year after breast cancer, implants, shingles and hyperthyroid crisis…
    makes me wonder if these illnesses were triggers for RA, with family history being another risk factor.

  • March 5, 2019 at 8:59 pm

    The only family members I have on either side with any autoimmune disease is my brother who has graves disease and my dad did too. One of my mom’s cousins had MS and another has Crohns diagnosed in her 60s. I am the first person anyone in the family knows of to have any of what I have; RA, Lupus, Sjogrens Syndrom, Addisons Disease, Hashimoto’s, and Psoriasis.

    Where did all this come from???

  • March 7, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    My mother and I both have RA that started in our early 20’s. I also just ready a family story and my great-grandmother’s sister also had it way back in the late 1800’s. We lived in different countries, different centuries…. I’m a true believer that RA does run in families and is not just environmental triggers. I have no daughters, but I do worry about my son, who at 5 years old had a week of limping and crying out in pain. The doctor did do blood tests and xrays and diagnosed him with a virus, but I still watch him like a hawk. He has never bounded up the stairs like a normal child. Are you ever too young to do the imaware testing? He is now 11.

    • March 7, 2019 at 8:07 pm

      That testing is only approved after age 18 at this time.
      But if you see symptoms, I’d ask the pediatrician to run every test available: CCP, RF, 14-3-3eta.


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