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RA diagnosis and possible causes

RA is diagnosed through a combination of blood tests, scans and examination of the joints. Around 50% of the cause of RA is genetic factors. The rest is made up of what’s referred to as ‘environmental’ factors, such as whether you smoke or are overweight 

When you are diagnoses with RA, it is natural that one of your first questions might be “Why me?” There is no simple, definitive answer to this, but we do know some of the reasons people develop RA. Around 50% of the cause of RA is genetic factors. The rest is made up of what’s referred to as ‘environmental’ factors, such as whether you smoke or are overweight. Your age and gender can also make you more susceptible to getting RA. RA affects roughly 2-3 times more women than men and the average age of onset is around 40-50, though older in men, but it can develop at any age. With these factors coming together, it is then thought that something ‘triggers’ the condition, though what that trigger is seems to vary.  

Getting a diagnosis can be a difficult process, as there is no single, definitive test for RA. Diagnosis will be made through a combination of discussion of symptoms and risk factors, a range of blood tests and scans (such as X-ray or ultrasound) as well as examination of the joints. Your GP will run the initial blood tests and if they suspect you may have RA they will refer you to a rheumatologist, who will perform further tests and examination of your joints to make the diagnosis. Once diagnosed, you will be under the care of the rheumatology team and will attend the hospital for regular check-ups to manage and monitor your condition and medication.  

01. Diagnosis

RA can be very difficult to diagnose, as there is no single test to show whether or not you have the disease. Diagnosis is decided through a combination of blood tests, scans (such as X-ray or ultrasound) and an examination of your joints by a consultant rheumatologist. 

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02. Possible causes and risk factors

Whilst it is not fully understood why an individual develops RA when they do, a lot of the causes and risk factors have been identified. These are generally broken up into two categories, genetic factors and environmental factors. There is also usually a ‘trigger’ just prior to onset of the disease.  

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