Written by Serena R. Schad
I think one question that a lot of us with rheumatoid arthritis continuously ask ourselves is, why did I get RA? Was there possibly something I did to trigger this disease that attacks my body? I did a lot of research and gathered as much information as I could to share with everyone. I hope this article provides you with the answer you have been looking for.
Approximately 1.3 million Americans or 1% of the United States population has rheumatoid arthritis. It is unknown at this time why, but women are three times more likely to develop RA than men are. The onset of RA typically occurs anywhere between the ages of 30 and 60, but can start at any age. The earlier the onset of RA, the more severe your RA tends to be.
Although RA does occur mostly in females, men with RA tend to have extremely severe cases, and also are more inclined to go into remission. Women with rheumatoid arthritis are more susceptible to miscarriages during pregnancy, birth defects, premature deliveries, and many other complications. There is no one particular ethnic group that RA affects, except when speaking of junior rheumatoid arthritis. Caucasian children have a much higher chance of developing the disease than any other ethnic group.
Other research has indicated that genetics play a role in the onset of RA. There is a particular gene found in those with RA called HLA-DR haplotypes. Nearly 80% of those with RA carry this specific gene. This autoimmune disease does appear to be hereditary; meaning usually someone in your family has RA as well. I have done a lot of research and contacted many family members, and have yet to find a single soul with rheumatoid arthritis. I guess I was the lucky one!
RA has been known to be triggered by pregnancy, and also smokers have a much greater chance of developing RA. I think the most interesting piece of information that I found is the theory that severe bacterial, viral, or fungal infections trigger rheumatoid arthritis. I have spoken personally with others who claim that their RA began shortly after a serious illness. In December of 1998, I contracted mononucleosis and strep throat at the same time. In the one month that I was ill, I lost nearly 15 pounds, made many trips to the hospital for fluids, and had an ongoing temperature of 103 degrees almost the entire month I was sick. That was the first time in my life that my body had ever endured such a harsh viral illness. Less than 30 days after ridding my body of those nasty virus’, my RA symptoms began at the age of 14. Prior to my illness, I never so much as had one tiny ache or pain in my joints. My life drastically changed in one month’s time, and I am a firm believer that it was the viral infections that started my battle with rheumatoid arthritis.
I hope that this information along with my personal stories have somehow shed light on your unanswered questions. I believe that someday there will be a cure for RA, or even a way to prevent the disease from beginning all together. We must always remain positive, stay united, and never give up this fight!
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