Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Hereditary, and can the onset of this disease be prevented or delayed in any way?
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the mobile joints. It appears to be an autoimmune disorder, meaning that the body’s own immune system produces antibodies, which attack its tissues. This results in inflammation and pain in varying degrees. It should not be confused with Osteoarthritis, which is caused by the ‘wear and tear’ of joints (Lahita, 2001).
Signs and symptoms
RA can be very difficult to diagnose since it can often mimic symptoms of other diseases and illnesses or flare and fade intermittently. However, the symptoms may present as hard to heal injuries, numbness in the hands (which is often diagnosed as carpal tunnel syndrome), foot trouble, eye problems, painful and/or swollen joints, deformities and contractures of joints, morning stiffness or nodules that grow under the skin near painful joints (Worth, 2008). Melissa Conrad Stöpler and William C. Shiel state that when the disease is active, symptoms tend to include fatigue, loss of appetite and fever (Stöppler & Shiel, 2013).
All of the above findings are supported by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons who state that the symptoms of RA include pain and stiffness in a joint, even when it is not being used; nodules; foot pain and symptoms throughout the body e.g. fever, appetite loss and lack of energy (American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 2007).Further symptoms may also involve chest pains when breathing, dry eyes and mouth, sleep difficulties and burning and itchy eyes paired with discharge (Baruchin, 2012).
To confirm the diagnosis of RA, medical professionals require certain criteria to be met. The American College of Rheumatology uses the “standard” criteria list, which requires that at least four of the following seven criteria must be met: morning stiffness lasting more than one hour; arthritis (stiffness of joints) of more than two joints for a minimum of six weeks; arthritis in the joints of the hands for a minimum of six weeks; nodules under the skin; the Human Leucocyte Antigen (HLA) factor present in blood testing and evidence of RA on x-rays (American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 2007).
The causes of RA have been disputed in the past, but as ground-breaking research continues steadily, more clarity about the cause of the disease is slowly being achieved. However, the complete and exact cause is still unknown, while the hereditary nature thereof is still greatly disputed. Where many researchers believe that RA is hereditary and passed on from generation to generation, others believe that genes play no role in the development of RA and that environmental factors are the cause thereof. Still others believe that although certain genes play a role in the development of RA, these genes occur randomly and are not inherited.
Much research has been done to determine the causes of and prove the possible genetic and...