Arthritis and Genetics

Does arthritis have a genetic factor?  It appears so.  If you have arthritis in your family, you are probably at a higher risk for joint problems, or possibly even joint replacement surgery.


Arthritis In Patients

Arthritis is a condition which can affect nearly any joint in the body, although it’s most commonly experienced in the hands, elbows, and knees.   Arthritis is caused by a slow wearing-down of the cartilage in between the bones, which allows for smooth and easy movements.  In fact, natural cartilage gives less resistance than ice!

Unfortunately, due to age and other issues, this cartilage wears down.  First it seems as though there’s a limit to mobility, or there may be “clicking” sounds within  the joint.  Eventually, movement becomes painful.  Left untreated, the cartilage eventually disappears entirely, leaving constant pain.  At that point, only joint replacement is a viable option.

As more research has accumulated, the more it appears genetics are a factor here.

The Genetic Link In Arthritis

There have been some specific examples uncovered:

  • Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is an inflammatory condition that wears away cartilage.  It’s been discovered that ninety percent of people suffering this condition have a single shared gene, called HLA-B27.  Less than 5% of people without this gene develop AS.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is one of the most common forms of arthritis, and has been linked to gene  HLA-DR4.  At least 70% of RA sufferers carry this gene.  Also, in identical twins, if one has RA, the chances for the other go up 10-15%.
  • Osteoarthritis (OA), another common form, has not been decisively linked to a gene.  However, the sister of an OA sufferer has roughly a 50% greater chance of developing OA herself, or even higher.

In other words, there appears to be a genetic component in virtually all major forms of arthritis.  If arthritis is in your family, you should be aware that this significantly increases your own risk factors.

If you begin feeling early symptoms of arthritis, it’s important to visit a doctor.  If left untreated, it can lead to unnecessary joint replacement surgery.

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