Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the joints. In some patients, the inflammation spreads to (and damages) other non-joint organs like the heart, lungs, blood vessels, skin, and eyes. RA is caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking the body’s tissues.

So far, researchers have not been able to tell exactly what causes the immune system to misbehave in this way. Some genetic factors increase the likelihood of RA, but they don’t actually cause the disease. Conversely, studies have shown that the following groups of people are more vulnerable to rheumatoid arthritis than others:

  1. Women are likelier to have RA than men. While it can affect people of all ages, it mostly starts in middle age. Middle-aged women are more susceptible than any other group.
  2. The condition is genetic, so if someone in your family has RA, you may have an increased risk.
  3. If you are genetically predisposed to have RA, cigarette smoking increases your risk. Studies also show that smoking increases the severity of the disease.
  4.  Overweight people, especially women 55 years and younger, appear to be at a higher risk of rheumatoid arthritis than people of average weight.
  5. Environmental factors, like exposure to asbestos or silica, increases the risk of autoimmune disorders like RA.

While there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis yet, there are medications geared towards reducing patients’ pain, as well as minimizing joint damage and improving physical function.

If you’re suffering from RA, you can take part in clinical trials and gain access to promising drugs that are still in the developmental phase. For more information, visit DM Clinical or call 281-517-0550.