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The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not known. Many risk factors are involved in the abnormal activity of the immune system that characterizes rheumatoid arthritis. These risk factors include genetics (inherited genes), hormones (explaining why the disease is more common in women than men), and possibly infection by a bacterium or virus. Other environmental factors known to increase the risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis include tobacco smoking, silica exposure, and periodontal (gum) disease.
Medical scientists have shown that alterations in the microbiome (altered levels of gut bacteria that normally inhabit the bowels) exist in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Emerging research shows that the microbiome has an enormous influence on our health, immune system, and many diseases, even those previously not directly linked to the gastrointestinal tract. Studies have shown different kinds of bacteria in the intestines of people with rheumatoid arthritis than in those who do not have rheumatoid arthritis. However, it remains unknown how this information can be used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment is probably not as simple as replacing missing bacteria, but this may explain why some individuals with rheumatoid arthritis feel better with various dietary modifications.
For more information, read our full medical article on rheumatoid arthritis.