I live in Boston and have received a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. I often find myself wondering, “Why me?” What causes this disease?

The causes of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are not fully understood. While methods of diagnosis make it possible to identify this disease early on and begin treatment right away, the actual reasons for it remain elusive.

Most people with RA do not pass it on to their children, nor do they inherit it, but genes do play some role in the condition and some people with RA have a family history of the disease.

Researchers are looking for genetic answers to your question and think that one or more genes could be responsible for increasing your body’s tendency to allow the immune system to affect your joints.

Even though your genes do not actually cause you to get RA, it is possible that they can increase your susceptibility to certain viruses and bacteria. It is believed that these environmental factors can trigger your body’s immune system, causing it to attack your joints. 

While research continues, there are some factors that appear to increase the risk of developing RA. For instance, women are between two and three times more likely than men to develop the disease. Age is also a factor, as RA most often begins between the ages of 40 and 60. There is also some correlation between smoking and the risk for RA. 

No matter what has caused your RA, you should definitely begin treatment right away, as this disease is chronic (ongoing). The sooner you begin treating it, the better your outcome is likely to be.

The Boston SSA disability specialists at Keefe Disability Law can help you if your condition worsens and you need to apply for Massachusetts SSA disability benefits.

John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer