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Am I At Risk for Arthritis if it Runs in the Family?

Am I At Risk for Arthritis if it Runs in the Family?

Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are two of the most common forms of arthritis, and both carry genetic risk factors. This means that if you have a family history of OA or RA, you are at a higher risk than someone without a family history of developing these forms of arthritis.

Prabhdeep Singh, MD, is a board-certified internal medicine physician backed by over two decades of experience helping patients stay healthy and live well. Dr. Singh helps patients best manage chronic conditions such as arthritis. The exact role of genetics in the risk of developing OA and RA isn’t well understood. Research into the connection is ongoing. Let’s discuss what we do know about genetic risk factors of OA and RA.


Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint condition in which the joint tissues deteriorate over time. It is the most common type of arthritis and is more prevalent in older adults.

People with osteoarthritis typically experience joint pain and stiffness after rest or inactivity. The following joints are the most often affected:

Each person is affected differently by osteoarthritis. Some people have moderate osteoarthritis that does not interfere with their daily activities, while others experience significant discomfort and interruption in their daily lives.

Pain, swelling, and a loss of range of motion in the joint develop as the damage to the joint progress. 

OA risk factors

OA is connected to wear and tear on the joints. This makes age one of the main risk factors. Other things that accelerate wear and tear on the joints, such as obesity and long-term overuse, contribute to the development of OA.

Your genes play a role in the likelihood of developing OA. Various research found a genetic link to osteoarthritis when examining the family history and twin studies. Genetic research suggests that having a family history of osteoarthritis increases the risk of developing it by about 50% or higher. Several genes related to cartilage and collagen have been implicated in OA.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-term autoimmune disorder that mostly affects the joints of the wrists and hands, spine, knees, ankles, and feet. In RA, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues surrounding the joints, causing inflammation and, eventually, reduced mobility and loss of joint function. 

RA risk factors

The exact cause of RA isn’t fully understood. However, environmental and genetic factors appear to influence a person’s risk of developing RA. Smoking is known to increase the risk of developing RA.

Having one autoimmune disease increases the risk of having another. This means that if you have an autoimmune disease currently, you’re at a higher risk of developing another one, including RA.

Heritability accounts for a 50% to 60% higher risk of developing RA.

As researchers gain a better understanding of RA and the genetic markers linked with the condition, patients will be able to be diagnosed earlier and given more effective individualized treatment options.

Beyond genetics

Having a family background of OA or RA doesn’t mean that you will develop either one of these forms of arthritis. Adopting a healthy lifestyle that helps to protect your joints can help reduce your risk of all forms of arthritis. 

Leading an active lifestyle, eating a well-balanced diet that includes omega-3 fatty acids, and avoiding smoking are all ways you can keep your joints healthy and cut the chances of developing arthritis.

Anyone concerned about their joint health should schedule a visit with Dr. Singh at our El Centro, California office. Dr. Singh can evaluate your joint health and any joint risks and discuss ways to take the best care of your joints. 

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