Inherited RA?

Sorry to be appear thick .... but this is my question. I thought I was told that RA is not inherited but it appears from various blogs that it does, in fact, run in families. I am the first one in my family to have it (lucky old me!) and I have told my son that it is not inherited. Have I told him a porky pie? Us, as a family, have put it down to me having chemotherapy a couple of times some 26 years ago for non-hodgekins lymphoma, and the damage the drugs (massive MTX etc) have done to my system. Any ideas?


15 Replies

From what I've read there is a weak genetic link, so there is a slightly stronger likelihood that you'll get RA if it is in your family. But it seems that even if you have the tendency, there also needs to be something to trigger it off into full blown RA. The YouTube video that EmmaF posted a few days ago was interesting on that point, as it talked about research that showed that loads more people have the RA factor in their blood than ever show up with RA.

But it also said that the number of people showing up with RA in the States is dropping, and the scientists reckon that's because smoking is a trigger and the number of people smoking is dropping. So more reason not to smoke.

all that does sound fairly logical, but I don't think that can be the whole story as doesn't explain all the sero-negative people who don't have the RF factor, especially those who get juvenile RA before they've had a chance to get stressed out or take up smoking.... so I guess no one knows the full answer yet for sure. Polly


I didn't know it was in my family until i got diagnosed. It seems my grandparents on my dads side had it. I have been told it skips a generation,not sure how true that is though. sylvi.xx


I don't think there is any quick answer to this question, i don't think anyone really knows what triggers R.A. at a partic time. When I returned to my G.P. after several bouts of tendonitis in my hands before being diagnosed his first question was, Is there any R.A. in your family? My grandmother had severe R.A. and my two sisters have since been diagnosed with R.A. too. So I would say there can be quite a strong genetic tendency for some people but probably not all. I think we all worry that we may be passing on this awful disease to our children and grandchildren, even guilty but hopefully treatments will continue to improve.... Zeen.


Thank you very much. I was eventually diagnosed with a high blood plasma viscosity reading after being laid up in bed for over 2 weeks with a seriously high temp (105+). Had pains and swellings for about 8 years before I took it seriously when I started to cry with pain when I washed my hands, for example (how stupid does that sound!) - am sero-negative with a (sometimes) normal ESR. I have told my son that neither the RA nor the NHL are can be inherited, but he is such a health fitness boy (ok, he is 25!). Hopefully, he will not be affected. XX Virge


I agree with Polly I think there is a susceptibility if there is someone in your family who has it but, like she said, there needs to be a trigger.

My maternal grandmother had it and my aunt has AS. I think my trigger was massive tubes of betnovate when I was a baby as treatment for eczema. My mum used to slather me in it. My understanding is that the pituitary gland produces natural cortisone and that the massive doses of steroid cream made my pituitary gland sluggish. I was diagnosed with Still's when I was 9. I now take 4mg of prednisolone (along with everything else of course!) but my rheumy says not to try and reduce it any more as that is roughly the amount a healthy body would produce. I also have always had a near normal ESR but do have a positive rheumatoid factor.

Also, my sister and two of my cousins (all on the maternal side) suffer with Iritis which is also linked.

I think the fact that this is all on the maternal side is significant too. I have 3 boys and I've been told that if it follows at all (genetically speaking), it will follow the female line. Just tell him to be aware that if he starts to get stiff joints in the morning, it would be best to get it checked out. That's what I've told mine.

Hope this helps


Hi there,

also RA is an autoimmune disease and people with close relatives who have autoimmune conditions are more likely to develop one, not necessarily the same one though. My Rheumatologist jumped on the fact that my Mum had Multiple Sclerosis for this reason. So I guess that what might be inherited is the tendency of the immune system to turn on itself.

But I don't know of any other close relatives with any serious autoimmune diseases so there might be not be a link at all in my case, it's just impossible to know.

Christina x


In my family mother, paternal aunt and grandfather had it. Trigger could've been work, I was in jobs which were abolished by thatcher three times. Surviving !


There is still much research to do on this subject.

There are some genes which can predispose a person to developing Inflammatory Arthritis such as Ankylosing Spondylitis, yet, it's also known not everyone with the gene HLA-B27 go on to develop A.S.

I don't believe RA is an inherited condition, my family has NO history what so ever, however, my sister, brother and I all have different forms of Inflammatory Arthritis, so where has that came from??

My feeling is if there is an older family members with the condition doctors say it's inheritory and if not they just shake their heads and say who knows!

Beth xx


Hi Virge,

I'm exactly like you, as far as im aware, i'm the first person in my family to be diagnosed with RA. I thought RA was only hereditary - well until I got it! I also worry that I may pass it to my kids (when I have them I mean - i'm only 23!!)

I didnt realise there was meant to be a trigger - am trying to think of one - but I had recently graduated, maybe it was looking for a job that was stressing me out and I didnt know it!

Unfortunately I think RA is is one of those annoying conditions that there is no simple explaination as to why you can get it!

Thank you for asking the question - was interesting to read everyones answers.

Hope you are keeping well

Tracy x


Hi, I was diagnosed 2 years ago at 49. My sister is now 49 and has also been diagnosed. In my mothers family there are so many relatives with autoimmune disorders(type 1 diabetes, crohns, thyroid problems etc) Have recently found my grandads sisters family and on chatting to her she states her gran and great grandmother had RA and she has autoimmune problems, so I do think it has come down my mums dads line. My daughter has recently been diagnosed with thyroid problems and is having a blood test for thyroid antibodies in a couple of weeks.Wouldn't be surprised if she tested positive for them. I was told 18 years ago that I had positive thyroid antibodies after having 3 early miscarriages. I thought at the time that they were caused by an overactive immune system. xx


hi, i also was diagnosed at the age of 49,my mum was 34 when she got it,but sadly isnt around any more,also my brother was in his 30s when he got it,my mother had dissfigured joints and so has my brother,treatment is different now to what it was when my mother was diagnosed with it,she had gold injections and wax baths as well as lots of tablets,my brother also has had simular to mum had, but is also now having some of the same as ive been put on,i am now 54 years old and my brother 49,i think all in all ive been lucky to get it later in my life,some one said on one of the blogs,that in america they say a lot of it is due to smoking,well ive never smoked in my life,my mum and brother did,although mum packed in a lot of years before she died,and has now been gone 14 years,my brother still smokes,,where these people get their info from is beyond me,you either get it or you dont simple as that.....x


Hi Virge

As you and the others have mostly concluded, developing RA is down to both genetic and environmental factors, and the interactions between the two. There is some evidence of a genetic link, but there are a number of different genes responsible for increasing your risk of RA and simply having these genes doesn't necessarily mean you will go on to develop RA. Often there is some sort of environmental trigger, which can vary from a period of stress, to giving birth, to an infection or trauma.

You might find it interesting to read our articles on the genetics of RA and the environmental factors so I have included links to these below:

Kind regards

Sarah Kate

NRAS Helpline


I have understood by reading and the medical profession that it can be genetic and equally not. The same gene could show as chrones in another family member as they are both auto immune diseases.But like everyone says they need a trigger and I can pinpoint when my trigger happened, but we cant turn back time unfortunately so we have to learn to live with it,but fight it we must and adjust, but dont give up!!x


it seems to run in the females in my mothers family, not many have missed out on getting it :-(


My rheumatologist has done research on this, showing common threads in autoimmune disorders. A summary of one of the reports is shown at this line ( American Autoimmune and Related Disorders Association, ). The one shown is an older study (1995) but they've worked on similar issues with similar results.


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