Arthritis and genetics, is there a link?

May 2022

For some types of arthritis, people who are a parent, child, or sibling of someone with arthritis, may be at risk of developing a similar condition. It is very likely that genes play a part of developing some types of arthritis. But the exact role of genetics is still not well known.

Inflammatory Arthritis   

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) -
RA is an auto-immune disease. It is the most common type of inflammatory arthritis. Some environmental factors – such as infection, injury, smoking, or occupational exposures – may be linked with RA in some people.

Genetic factors are also linked to cases of RA. People who are close relatives to those with RA and are also born with variations in the HLA genes, are more likely to develop RA. HLA genes help your immune system identify which proteins your body makes, and those from viruses and bacteria. It is important to note that not everyone with these genetic markers develops RA, and those without the genetic markers can still develop RA.

Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) –
AS causes inflammation in the joints of the neck, back and pelvis. Approximately 90% of patients with AS carry an HLA-B27 gene. However, not everyone with the gene will develop AS, and some people without the HLA-B27 gene develop it. People that have family members with AS are more likely to develop the disease, while those without the gene and no family history are less likely to develop AS.

Lupus –
Lupus seems to have a hereditary component. Current research is identifying how genetic variations can cause susceptibility to lupus. This research is predicting whether a person will develop lupus, as well as its severity and what treatments will work best for those with genetic variations.

Scleroderma –
Genetics play a role in the disease, but it is not passed on from parents to children. Overall, the exact causes of scleroderma are unknown, however some known risk factors for scleroderma are–gender (being born female), age, race (European descent), and environmental exposure.

Non-Inflammatory Arthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) -
OA is the most common form of non-inflammatory arthritis. For some people, genetic factors may increase their risk of OA, for example mutations in genes for collagen. However other risk factors for OA can include being overweight, joint injuries, ageing and joint anatomy. 

Want more information on the different types of arthritis? 

Check out our Types of Arthritis webpage to learn more about the different types of arthritis. Or read our Arthritis Insights articles and Information Sheets 

If you have arthritis, how can we help? 


Always talk to your doctor and/or health professional before starting an exercise program. A physiotherapist or exercise physiologist can suggest safe exercises and make sure you are doing your exercises correctly.


  • Cleveland Medical Clinic. Rheumatoid Arthritis. Feb 2022
  • Cleveland Medical Clinic. Is Arthritis Hereditary? Understanding the cause of disease stemming from inherited and outside factors. Rheumatology and Immunology. June 17, 2019
  • Spector TD, MacGregor AJ. Risk factors for osteoarthritis: genetics. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2004;12 Suppl A:S39-44. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2003.09.005
  • Medline Plus. Osteoarthritis. National Library of Medicine. Oct 2017.
  • Lupus Foundation. Understanding the genetics of lupus. National resource centre on lupus. Nd.