Video Q & A:

RA 101

Question:

Could I have prevented rheumatoid arthritis?

Expert:   Linda Russell, MD, Hospital for Special Surgery »

When you're dealing with the pain of rheumatoid arthritis, you're left wondering-- could I have avoided this? The answer is no-- watch this to learn about the risk factors.

Transcript: You can NOT prevent rheumatoid arthritis. It is an autoimmune disease -- that means it develops when the immune system goes into hyper-drive and begins to attack the body’s healthy cells instead of going after viruses and bacteria as it is designed to do. We don’t know WHY this happens, although we can point to some RISK factors that may increase a person’s chance of developing rheumatoid arthritis or other autoimmune diseases such as lupus. For example, women are three times more likely than men to develop rheumatoid arthritis. Nothing you can do about your gender. A genetic predisposition to RA may be coded into your genes, and although it does not CAUSE rheumatoid arthritis, it may make you more susceptible to environmental triggers, such as a virus, that can lead to the disease. Physical or emotional trauma can also affect the immune system, making it more likely to develop an autoimmune reaction. These too are outside your control. Age is another risk factor, with most cases of rheumatoid arthritis occurring in people from 30 to 60 years old. Juvenile idiopathic arthritis hits children between the ages of 1 and 16. SMOKING increases the risk of rheumatoid arthritis — and can worsen the outcome if you keep smoking after you are diagnosed. This you can do something about and SHOULD for many reasons. You can see that there isn’t really anything you can DO to prevent the initial onset of rheumatoid arthritis. However, early treatment can do a lot to prevent joint damage and you SHOULD continue maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to stave off your symptoms. For more on rheumatoid arthritis, check out other videos in these series. More »

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