Risk Factors for Rheumatoid Arthritis

A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop rheumatoid arthritis with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing rheumatoid arthritis. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your healthcare provider what you can do to reduce your risk.

Blood Transfusions

You may have an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis if you have received blood transfusions.


Although rheumatoid arthritis can develop at any age, you’re most likely to develop the condition between the ages of 25 and 45.


Women are 2.5 to 3 times more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than men.

Genetic Factors

You are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis if there are other people in your family with this condition or with other autoimmune disorders.

Ethnic Background

You have a greater risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis if you are:

  • White
  • Native American (particularly belonging to the Yakima, Chippewa, or Inuit tribes)


People who are obese may have an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

Coffee and Cigarettes

Some studies have suggested that there is a connection between drinking coffee and developing rheumatoid arthritis. More work needs to done to confirm this association.

Long-term smoking may be a risk factor for the development of rheumatoid arthritis.


Arthritis Foundation website. Available at: http://www.arthritis.org/ .

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/ .

Cecil Textbook of Medicine . 21st ed. W.B. Saunders Company; 2000.

Conn’s Current Therapy . 54th ed. W.B. Saunders Company; 2002.

Last reviewed February 2007 by Robert E. Leach, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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