Is Arthritis Inherited?

Arthritis is a disease which can create excruciating pain. Unfortunately, an extraordinary number of Americans experience it. More than 40 million of us suffer with some form of arthritis. Many have pain so severe, it limits daily activities. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of the disease and it affects about 16 million Americans; Rheumatoid Arthritis, a condition more crippling of the two, affects 2.1 million people.
Whether either of these forms of arthritis is inherited (passed along in families), is still under investigation. Medical experts have some information but its still not conclusive.

OSTEOARTHRITIS: This form of arthritis causes pain and swelling and as a result, reduced motion in joints. Although it can affect any joint the most common locations are hands, knees and hips even the spine. Osteoarthritis causes cartilage, which is the slippery tissue that protects the ends of bones and absorbs the shock of movement, to deteriorate. Thanks to this break down, bones rub together causing pain and over time, it only gets worse.

Although osteoarthritis has long been known to be a result of aging, or injury, medical experts say the disease may also runs in families.

In fact, some studies show that osteoarthritis is occasionally found in multiple member of the same family. Geneticists believe that there may be one or more genetic (heredity) factors involved. According to one study of 481 families -- each of which contained at least one sibling pair with osteoarthritis -- a susceptibility gene was discovered located on something called Chormosome 11q. It was female specific. In fact, its also known that osteoarthritis, which onset is usually after age fifty, develops more frequently (but not exclusively) in women.
RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS: This form of arthritis causes the lining of joints to become inflamed. As the disease progresses, it damages tendons, ligaments, cartilage and bone in the joints. It can also damage other areas of the body such as lungs, eyes, and blood vessels. This form of arthritis is actually two to three times more common in women than it is in men and roughly begins between the ages of 40 to 60. At this point, experts are not sure what causes rheumatoid arthritis. But they do know this: the disease causes the bodys own natural defense (immune) system to attack joints.

Can it be inherited? It is believed that the tendency to develop rheumatoid arthritis may be genetic condition. One study from Holland shows that people who eventually develop rheumatoid arthritis usually have abnormal arthritis blood tests long before they develop joint pains.Yet, there is no single gene to blame for rheumatoid arthritis; when one family member develops the disease the risk to others in the family is small. The main risk comes from a group of genes known as HLA-DRB1 alleles. On the other hand, several genes appear to be involved, each of which exerts only small effects to different degrees in different people. In 2007, researchers in Manchester, England, identified a genetic variant in part of chromosome 6 that is associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Its thought that this variant, although not a gene itself, may affect the behavior of a nearby gene called tumor necrosis factor associated protein gene (TNFAIP3), which is known to be involved in the process of inflammation.But it is also suspected that certain infections or factors in the environment might trigger the activation of the immune system in susceptible individuals. For example, scientists have reported that smoking tobacco increases the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Whatever the cause, the misdirected immune system attacks the body's own tissues whichleads to inflammation in the joints.Even though there is no firm answer as to whether either form of arthritis is inherited, there are treatments for both. Speak with your doctor, or make an appointment with an arthritis specialist to discuss your options. Robin Westen is ThirdAges medical reporter. Check for her daily updates. She is the author of Relationship RepairSee what others have to say about this story or leave a comment of your own.
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