Doctors are yet to fully understand the exact causes of Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA. It is the interplay between genetics (e.g. inheriting RA) and environmental factors that are associated with the development of RA. We do know that people living with RA are more likely to be female, have a family history of RA, possess certain genetic factors, and be exposed to tobacco smoke.
What are the chances of developing RA if there is a family history?
Some research has shown that you are three times more likely to develop RA if you have a first degree relative (parent, sibling or child) who suffers from the disease, compared to the general population.
Other research into genetic factors includes Rheumatoid Factor (RF) and antibodies to citrullinated protein/peptide antigens (Anti-CPP). These factors contribute only 40-50% to the development of RA, so it indicates that environmental factors also play an important role.
Can a test predict whether I will get rheumatoid arthritis?
Unfortunately there is no predictive test that tells you if you will get rheumatoid arthritis in the future. As there is no single cause, this makes it difficult. However, there are a number of things that you can do to reduce the risk of developing RA, one being to quit smoking.
There are a number of tests the doctor will recommend to diagnose or rule out RA.
So, is RA hereditary?
Genes aren’t everything. Although there is evidence that RA can run in families, it does not mean that everyone in the family will have it. The important thing is that if you experience any symptoms like joint stiffness or pain or swelling, to speak to your doctor promptly for a proper diagnosis.
- 1. Deane KD, et al. Genetic and environmental risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis. Best Practice & Research Clinical Rheumatology. 2017;31:3-18
- 2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2009. A picture of rheumatoid arthritis in Australia. Arthritis series no. 9. Cat. no. PHE 110. Canberra: AIHW.
- 3. National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society 2013. The Genetics of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Accessed 6 September 2018.