Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Hereditary

There have been certain links found between heredity and rheumatoid arthritis. The genetic link has been found in an autoimmune gene called HLA-DR4. It has been found that 60-70% of people with European ancestry who have rheumatoid arthritis, carry this unique gene. Scientists are using genetics to try to figure out why people of different races and sex are affected so differently by rheumatoid arthritis and similar conditions. Another gene of focus is HLA-B27. People with this gene have a higher prevalence of ankylosing spondylitis and rheumatoid arthritis. This gene is found to be higher in several North American Indian tribes. There is believed to be enough of a link that a person's doctor should ask them about family history of the disease during the diagnosis process.

Fast Facts:

  • Genes are only modestly shown to increase the risk for rheumatoid arthritis, leading many to believe that environment has a larger role.
  • Children of parents with rheumatoid arthritis often test positive for the present genes along with rheumatoid factor, but never develop the disease itself.
  • No more than 10% of children with parents affected with rheumatoid arthritis will actually develop the condition.
  • Around 2/3 of the Caucasian population with rheumatoid arthritis carry the HLA-DR4 gene, while it is only found in 20% of the general population.