What Are the Risk Factors for Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is one of the many types of arthritis that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and deformity in your joints. According to Medline Plus, RA is an autoimmune disease in which arthritis results from your immune system attacking your body’s own tissues. The Arthritis Foundation states that 1.3 million Americans are affected with RA. While researchers do not know what causes RA, they have identified possible risk factors of which you should be aware.


According to the Mayo Clinic, gender alone is a risk factor for developing RA. Women are more likely than men to develop this disease. While there is nothing you can do to change this risk factor, you can investigate the family history of other women in your family to see if they have RA. Ask them what particular treatments and therapies worked best for them, because chances are that they may work well for you.

Family History

If anyone in your family has RA, it will increase your risk for developing this disease. Researchers believe there is a particular gene (HLA-DR4) that is related to RA, states the Arthritis Foundation. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, they don’t believe you can directly inherit RA, but you can inherit a predisposition to it. Likewise, if you have RA, you will increase the risk that your kids may develop it.


Your age is another risk factor of RA that you do not have any control over. According to Medline Plus, those between the ages of 25 and 55 are at the greatest risk for developing this disease. However, RA can still occur at any age.


Smoking cigarettes has been found to be a major risk factor for developing RA that you can control. Quitting can significantly reduce your risk, states the Mayo Clinic. Keep in mind that smoking also increases your risk for many other health conditions, in addition to RA. Therefore, you should work with your doctor to develop a plan to quit immediately.

About this Author

Jacques Courseault, M.D., began writing professionally in 2007. He is currently the fitness editor for Dr.Gourmet.com, founder and writer of ExerciseMenu.com, and co-founder of Don’t Weight to Lose. He is a resident in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Dr. Courseault received his bachelor’s degree in psychology at Tulane University, and is a graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine.