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Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Genetic?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease, which means it is a condition where the immune system mistakenly attacks one’s own body tissues. The immune system of our body mainly guards us against foreign particles present in our body but in an autoimmune condition, the immune system mistakenly identifies parts of our body such as skin and joints as foreign, thus attacking them.

Rheumatoid arthritis can cause swelling, stiffness, and pain in joints. The disease mainly affects joints in the hand, wrists, and knees.  In some bodies, the disorder can cause severe damage to other body systems such as the eyes, skin, heart, lungs, and blood vessels.

What Are The Genetic Markers That Are Connected To Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Generally, rheumatoid arthritis attacks many body joints at once. In a joint where RA IS affected, the lining becomes inflamed, causing damage to joint tissues. This tissue damage can lead to chronic pain, unsteadiness, and distortion.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Another arthritis that has similar symptoms and signs of RA is osteoarthritis (OA). OA usually affects fewer joints and only one joint at once whereas RA can cause more widespread inflammation and severe damage to the body.

Signs and Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

In the early stage of rheumatoid arthritis, people may not notice or feel swelling or inflammation in the joints but they may experience aches and tenderness.

The symptoms given below could be an early indication of rheumatoid arthritis in the body.

????Joint pain or swelling which lasts longer than 6 weeks

????Joint stiffness in the morning or after inactivity

????Weight loss


????Loss of appetite

The signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis usually show up in adulthood, between ages 30 to 50.

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Genetics

It has been studied that variation in genes is a risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis. The gene that is mainly associated with rheumatoid arthritis is human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes. The human leukocyte antigens are a complex of genes that is an important part of the human immune system that is located on chromosome 6.

The HLA gene is responsible for the encoding of proteins that usually help the immune system to distinguish one’s body protein from proteins produced by foreign invaders. A change in the HLA gene system has an impact on developing rheumatoid arthritis in the body.

Scientific research has found 3 main genetic markers that are connected to rheumatoid arthritis:

  • HLA-DRB1- HLA-DRB1 is part of the HLA immune system which distinguishes the proteins of our own body from the proteins produced by forgein  particles.
  • STAT4- STAT4 protein is part of our immune system which is turned on by cytokines and helps to get rid of pathogens in the body
  • TRAF1 and C5- A variation in the TRAF and C5 genetic markers increases a body to be vulnerable to rheumatoid arthritis mainly by causing inflammation.

Among the three genetic markers mentioned above, HLA-DRB1 is the major susceptibility placement for rheumatoid arthritis. This association of rheumatoid arthritis with HLA genes was found in the late 1970s itself and in the expanded studies of the association, it has frequently confirmed the linkage between HLA genes and rheumatoid arthritis. Studies have proven that a serotype of HLA DRB1 is higher in rheumatoid patients compared with controls.

The variation in the gene can lead to autoimmunity of the body, thus may trigger the condition. Also having a close relative with rheumatoid arthritis increases the risk of developing the condition which means parents, siblings,  and children of someone with rheumatoid arthritis is highly at risk of developing the condition. A study has also identified that genetic factors attribute about 68% of the cause for RA.

A twin study was carried out to assess the linkage between genetics and RA and in the study, it was found that identical twins who share 100% of their genes are likely to have RA compared to non-identical twins who share only 50% of their genes. The genetics of a person doesn’t cause rheumatoid arthritis directly but it makes a body vulnerable to the condition of rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is not a hereditary condition but the genetic markers of our body have a huge impact on determining the development of the condition. So a genetic disposition can be a cause of rheumatoid arthritis in a body.

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