Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that causes the immune system to mistakenly attack joints in the body, most commonly affecting the wrists, fingers, ankles and knees. For patients with advanced forms of this condition, the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can be debilitating.
In the past, there was no way to tell whether a patient could develop RA during his or her lifetime. However, new genetic research has revealed a connection between a specific gene in the body and a possible diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.
The “Arthritis Gene”
Researchers have identified a flawed version of a gene that that isn’t present in healthy individuals or in people with other forms of arthritis, creating a unique situation where doctors may be able to perform a blood test to determine whether rheumatoid arthritis is likely.
The presence of the flawed gene was connected strongly with severe forms of rheumatoid arthritis that greatly impact quality of life. This research offers patients who have a positive arthritis diagnosis earlier detection of potential problems.
Knowing whether a patient is at risk for further disease development can help doctors decide which treatment options are best.
Most forms of arthritis are treated with a combination of drugs designed to reduce pain and lifestyle changes that lower inflammation. However, special drugs are used for rheumatoid arthritis that are used to moderate immune function and prevent joint damage.
Patients who test positive for the “arthritis gene” could be given stronger arthritis drugs to delay the progression of their illness and prevent symptoms from occurring. Treating these symptoms early may prevent the joint and tissue damage commonly caused by severe forms of arthritis.