The Connection Between Rheumatoid Arthritis and the Immune System

close up photo of an aching man holding his shoulder
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic condition that causes inflammation in the joints. RA can cause painful and swollen joints, as well as fatigue and stiffness. Say’s Dr Lane Sebring, it’s estimated to affect about 1% of people worldwide.

What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease, which means that the body’s own immune system attacks its own tissues. This results in inflammation of the joints and can eventually lead to joint damage.

Rheumatoid arthritis affects about 1% of the population, with most cases occurring in women between 30-50 years old; however, children can also suffer from RA due to genetic factors or certain infections during pregnancy (such as rubella).

How the Immune System Works

The immune system is a complex network of cells, organs, and tissues that work together to protect the body from foreign invaders. It consists of innate and adaptive immunity. Innate immunity is the first line of defense against pathogens (microorganisms that cause disease).

The innate immune system includes anatomical barriers such as skin or mucous membranes; physical barriers such as cilia in the lungs; chemical defenses such as lysozyme in tears; natural killer cells that destroy infected cells; complement proteins that attack pathogens directly; interferons produced by lymphocytes when they recognize an invader’s protein on another cell surface; antimicrobial peptides that inhibit bacterial growth by disrupting cell wall synthesis (examples include defensins); fever production by prostaglandins released in response to infection-induced cytokines secreted by T helper type 1 cells and macrophages.[2]

Autoimmunity and Genetic Predisposition

Autoimmunity is a term that refers to when the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues. This can happen in a number of ways, but it usually involves either an infection or a genetic predisposition.

Autoimmune disorders are often characterized by chronic inflammation and may affect any part of the body, including joints, skin and internal organs like the heart (rheumatic fever). Autoimmune diseases include:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Lupus erythematosus (lupus) – an autoimmune disease that affects connective tissue throughout your body; it causes inflammation in various parts of your body including joints or kidneys

Raised Levels of Proinflammatory Cytokines

Proinflammatory cytokines are proteins that are released by white blood cells in response to an infection or injury. They cause inflammation, which helps the body fight off the infection or injury. In rheumatoid arthritis, however, there is an overproduction of proinflammatory cytokines in your body’s tissues (including joints). This can damage healthy tissue and lead to swelling and pain in affected areas.

Inflammation and Bone Loss in Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, which means that your immune system attacks healthy tissue in the body. In rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system attacks the lining of the joints and surrounding tissues. The result is inflammation that causes pain, swelling and redness. Inflammation can also lead to bone loss because it causes damage to cartilage and other connective tissue in the joint space by damaging cells called chondrocytes (cartilage cells).


Rheumatoid arthritis has a strong connection to the immune system, but the exact cause of this disease is still not understood. We know that it is an autoimmune condition, where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues instead of foreign invaders like viruses or bacteria. The reasons why some people develop RA and others don’t are still being investigated by researchers worldwide. It may have something do with genetics or other environmental factors such as diet and stress levels; however, there are also studies suggesting that changes in lifestyle can help reduce symptoms or even cure rheumatoid arthritis altogether!

Like this article?