Q: What causes rheumatoid arthritis?

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The exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not known, but it is classified as an autoimmune disease, in which the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissues. This results in inflammation that can eventually destroy joints and damage blood vessels and organs.

Rheumatoid arthritis risk factors include:

  • Being a woman
  • Having a family history of rheumatoid arthritis or autoimmune disorders
  • Native American ethnicity
  • Smoking

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  1. Domino FJ (Ed.) Five Minute Clinical Consult. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2013
  2. Singh JA, Furst DE, Bharat A, et al. 2012 update of the 2008 American College of Rheumatology recommendations for the use of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs and biologic agents in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken) 2012; 64:625
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