Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory condition that affects the joints and other parts of the body. The exact causes are unclear, but certain factors increase the risk of it developing.
Several issues can increase a person’s chances of having rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Some are unavoidable, but a person can take action to prevent others from leading to RA.
Changing the diet, quitting smoking, looking after the teeth and gums, and taking probiotics may reduce the risk of developing this condition. In this article, learn more about the risk factors for RA and which steps can help prevent it.
If a close family member has RA, a person ma have a higher risk of developing it.
However, a range of environmental and genetic factors are likely to contribute. There is no single genetic change that causes RA in everyone who has it.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women are
High levels of estrogen, a female sex hormone also present in males, may contribute to the development of the disease.
Some research points to a link between low testosterone levels and RA.
In 2018, researchers published the results of a study involving 59 participants with RA and 61 participants without the condition, matched for sex and age. Those with RA were more likely to have testosterone levels outside the normal range.
Some participants with RA then received serum testosterone therapy, and the activity of their RA reduced. The study’s authors believe that hormone replacement therapy may help treat symptoms of RA.
During and after menopause, some females with RA experience a decline in physical ability, according to results of a different 2018 study. This finding also suggests that hormones play a role in the progression of RA.
RA can develop at any age, but the risk increases as people get older. It is most likely to arise when a person is in their
Scientists have found links between smoking and an
Smoking can cause oxidative stress and increase the frequency of the body’s inflammatory response. It can also make some prescription RA medications less effective.
Some researchers believe that stress may play a role in RA. For example, the way the body reacts to stress
People with rheumatic conditions often report that their symptoms first appeared shortly after traumatic or stressful experiences, and many people find that stress causes RA symptoms to flare up.
The CDC report that obesity
Also, researchers associate obesity with several health issues, such as metabolic syndrome, that
Results of a
This could be due to factors such as occupation, housing conditions, stress, and diet, but access to healthcare may also play a role, as the researchers note.
The authors of a
An infection’s impact on the immune system may trigger RA. According to
- Part of the immune system loses its ability to handle certain microbes, such as bacteria or viruses.
- The infection triggers the production of new antigens, causing the immune system to become overactive.
- The immune system’s response to the infection also attacks some of the body’s functions, in a process called “bystander activation.”
Which infections may contribute to RA?
Some people develop signs of some kinds of arthritis within
- a urinary tract infection with Proteus mirabilis bacteria
- an infection with the Epstein–Barr virus
- an infection with bacteria in the Mycoplasma genus
- some types of gum disease
Gum disease may be twice as common in people with RA than in those without the condition. This does not necessarily mean that having gum disease increases the risk of developing RA, however. Other factors may need to be present to trigger arthritis.
Other pathogens that might trigger arthritis or cause symptoms similar to those of RA include:
A 2013 study found that
Authors of a 2016 study concluded that people with RA may have an abundance of certain microbes and that finding indications of these microbes in the gut may predict the development of the disease.
Almost a year later, in an animal-based study, researchers found that altering the balance of microbes in the gut could
Dietary factors can affect the risk of many diseases, and some researchers have suggested that certain substances in foods can trigger the onset of RA.
Authors of a 2018 study found that a type of bacteria in some milk and beef may trigger RA in people with genetic predispositions.
The researchers recommended, among other foods:
- raw or lightly cooked vegetables, especially legumes and green vegetables
- spices, such as turmeric and ginger
- seasonal fruits
- probiotic yogurts
They urged people to avoid animal-based products and foods that contain high amounts of salt and oil, including many processed products.
The research team did not suggest that dietary interventions could prevent RA but that consuming anti-inflammatory foods may help manage the symptoms.