The causes of rheumatoid arthritis are thought to be a blend of genetics, environment, and a host of factors that haven't completely been pinned down by modern medical science. The chronic disease causes swelling, stiffness and pain in the joints, and the related inflammation also can cause organ damage. It is not blamed on age, weight or injury. Rheumatoid arthritis happens when a person's immune system malfunctions and begins attacking healthy tissue, which triggers the painful symptoms.
Genetics is believed to be one of the primary causes of rheumatoid arthritis. Scientists know that people who inherit specific genes are more likely to suffer from the autoimmune disease. The disease is most likely to appear between the ages of 30 and 50, though it's not limited to that time frame, and women are more likely than men to suffer from the condition. Despite the genetic factor, people with no prior family history of the disease have been known to suffer from it.
Environment is another of the suspected causes of rheumatoid arthritis. It is believed that rheumatoid arthritis may strike susceptible people who come into contact with particular viruses or bacteria. While viruses and bacteria are suspected, no one had managed, as of 2010, to nail down a specific culprit, let alone figure out how to disable it. Stress and hormonal fluctuations also have taken blame among the causes of rheumatoid arthritis, as have personal choices such as smoking.
While it is hard to be definitive about the causes of rheumatoid arthritis, symptoms of the autoimmune disease are much easier to describe. Autoimmune diseases cause inflammation that can destroy otherwise healthy tissue. Such diseases actually confuse the body, tricking it into attacking itself and damaging joints, organs and tissue along the way. The resulting inflammation is the cause of the pain, swelling, and joint stiffness experienced by rheumatoid arthritis sufferers. The inflammation's potential for damaging organs makes effective treatment an even more critical issue.
A person who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis can have long periods of remission from the painful symptoms. Remission can be a natural occurrence, or it can be the result of effective treatment, and it can last from days to years before symptoms return. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs and rest are all used to treat the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and to try to delay the progression of the disease. Steroids also may be used.