Updated 25 November 2016

Causes of rheumatoid arthritis

What causes people to get rheumatoid arthritis?


Doctors don’t know the cause of rheumatoid arthritis, but there may be a strong genetic predisposition.

It is now understood that there is an abnormal immune reaction against the body's own synovial tissue, called an autoimmune reaction.

Other possible causes are environmental or biological triggers, like hormonal changes or a viral infection.

Read more:

What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Omega-3s lower rheumatoid arthritis risk

Reviewed by Dr Dr I C Louw, Rheumatologist/Physician and Dr A Halland, Rheumatologist/Physician, March 2007


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Professor Asgar Ali Kalla completed his MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 1975 at the University of Cape Town and his FRCP in 2003 in London. Professor Ali Kalla is the Isaac Albow Chair of Rheumatology at the University of Cape Town and also the Head of Division of Rheumatology at Groote Schuur Hospital. He has participated in a number of clinical trials for rheumatology and is active in community outreach. Prof Ali Kalla is an expert in Arthritis for Health24.

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