"You won't know if taking the pill or getting a certain virus will trigger arthritis, because we don't yet know the genes that encode the various autoimmune diseases," he says. "Obviously those people whose family members share a history of rheumatoid arthritis, or other autoimmune diseases including thyroid problems, should be more vigilant, because their chances are higher."
Triggers include hairspray and lipstick
Environmental pollution is also a cause for concern to those genetically predisposed to an autoimmune disease. Second-hand smoke, food chemicals or chemicals in the air, jet fuel fumes, UV exposure and other forms of environmental pollution are amongst the triggers considered to provoke the onset of autoimmune diseases.
Industrial regions, particularly in Northern Europe and North America, still exhibit the highest rates of most autoimmune diseases. But on a much more local scale, Prof. Ehrenfeld also singles out hairspray as well as lipstick as known occasional triggers.
"Most people think arthritis has to do with old age," says Prof. Ehrenfeld. "This is false. There is only one major type of arthritis in older people: osteoarthritis, which is brought on by degenerative changes in the body. What you see in older adults is usually a non-inflammatory and non-autoimmune type of arthritis.
"Most of the other kinds of arthritis we see in the clinic, the debilitating and inflammatory types, usually occur in young women between the ages of 20 and 40," Prof. Ehrenfeld says. "We hope that our research will lessen the occurrence and onset of these painful disorders."
|Contact: George Hunka|
American Friends of Tel Aviv University