Rheumatoid Arthritis and Genetics - Rheumatology Consultant London | Rheumatologist London | Dr Stephanie Barrett



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One of the concerns many people have when diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis is whether the condition is genetic. It can also be a concern if a parent or relative receives a diagnosis. Rheumatoid arthritis develops as a result of interaction between both genetic factors and environmental factors. New developments mean it has been possible to look more closely at the genetic markers involved in the condition.

Researchers know a number of the genes associated with rheumatoid arthritis. This has allowed for more tailored treatment. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean specific drugs will work for all people with the condition. As more genetic research takes place there is hope more tailored treatment will be available and more medications which better respond to the condition can be found. From a genetic perspective though, we’re looking at what it could mean if a family member has rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Family

One study found that first degree relatives of a person with rheumatoid arthritis have three times more chance of developing the condition. This means that the parents, brothers and sisters and children of a person with rheumatoid arthritis has a slightly increased risk of developing the condition. This doesn’t incorporate the environmental factors which can play a role.

With so much research out there it is important to balance different studies. Another research paper found genes contribute up to 68% of the causes for rheumatoid arthritis but this again isn’t conclusive.

It can be worrying if a family member receives a diagnosis. It is natural to worry about the health of your nearest and dearest in these circumstances. Rather than worry or panic though, it makes most sense to be vigilant for symptoms. As well as supporting the member or members of your family with the condition you can be prepared to look out for symptoms. It can be a worrying time but a genetic connection doesn’t necessarily mean a definite diagnosis.