Rheumatoid Arthritis: What Are The Causes?

rheumatoid arthritis causes


Millions of people across the globe suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Over the last 30 years, there have been huge improvements in understanding the mechanism of the disease, and more targeted drugs were developed that showed great improvements in controlling the disease.

However, people are still wondering: what are rheumatoid arthritis causes?

Research studies found that people with certain risk factors, from genetics, foods, viruses, and obesity to major stress, can cause Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) to start or even progress faster.

This article will discuss all the known risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis.


If you have a first-degree relative with Rheumatoid Arthritis (mother, father, sibling), your risk of developing it is threefold; if you have a second-degree relative (grandparent, uncle, aunt) with Rheumatoid Arthritis, then the risk is two times higher. The presence of certain genes like HLA-DRB1 will also increase the risk. 

2. Smoking

This is very important! People who are smokers should pay attention to this: Smoking is the strongest lifestyle risk factor for Rheumatoid Arthritis. Not only will that increase the risk of developing Rheumatoid Arthritis, but it will also cause an aggressive form of Rheumatoid Arthritis, and there is a high chance that your response to treatment will be poor.

3. Dietary changes 

Overeating sugar and too much salt in ultra-processed foods will increase the risk and can cause Rheumatoid Arthritis.

4. Gut changes

Oral, gut, and airway microbiota changes were reported in patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Interestingly, these changes could normalize during treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis.

5. Periodontal disease

Periodontal disease- gained special interest as it was noted that certain species of bacteria( like Prevotella species) were linked to forming certain antibodies, like CCP antibodies, that can cause Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

6. Vitamin D deficiency 

More data suggests that people deficient in vitamin D are at increased risk of developing autoimmune diseases in general. In contrast, a higher vitamin D intake decreases the risk of developing Rheumatoid Arthritis.

7. Obesity

Research has shown that people with a BMI>30 had a 30% increase in developing Rheumatoid Arthritis. The higher the weight, the more inflammation will result from the fat tissues, which can cause Rheumatoid Arthritis.

8. Infections

Viral infections such as EBV (Epstein Barr Virus) and CMV (Cytomegalovirus) were reported in some cases of Rheumatoid arthritis. Still, we do not know if they cause Rheumatoid Arthritis or if they are present in some people with the disease. 

I am frequently asked if COVID-19 infection or if the vaccine can precipitate the onset of Rheumatoid Arthritis. The simple answer is that we do not know. Some cases are reported, but like in other viruses, there might be an association, not a cause-effect relationship.

9. Stress 

Yes, research showed that females with posttraumatic stress disorder PTSD) have an increased risk of developing the disease. Even perceived stress about the possibility of inflammatory arthritis will increase the risk of developing the disease.


Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is not a hereditary disease; however, if you have a genetic predisposition, the recommendation is to try to manage all the other risk factors that you can. Of course you can’t control all of them, but paying attention to your diet, maintaining a normal weight, exercising regularly, and managing your stress will be helpful. 

At Rheumatologist OnCall, we emphasize a specialized and integrative approach specifically designed for Rheumatoid Arthritis patients. We offer to our patients not only treatment, but we strive to offer them education about nutrition through online courses, online physical therapy sessions, and mindfulness practices through a personalized approach to each patient’s needs.

We understand the importance of comprehensive care. Our goal is not only to diagnose and treat but to empower our patients with knowledge and tools to manage Rheumatoid Arthritis to the next level, achieve the best outcome, and live a full life.


All content shared on this site is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This site and its services do not constitute the practice of medicine. You should always talk to your health care provider for diagnosis and treatment regarding your specific medical needs. We don’t represent that any of the products or services offered through this site are safe, appropriate, or effective for you. We advise you to always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider regarding personal health or medical conditions. If you know or suspect you have a medical problem, contact a qualified healthcare professional immediately. If you’re experiencing a medical emergency, call 911.

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