Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an enigmatic disease. Unlike osteoarthritis, which is viewed as a consequence of the wear and tear of older age, RA can affect the young and middle-aged, and sometimes it disappears as mysteriously as it comes.
As it's a disease that can affect people from all backgrounds and environments, can its beginnings perhaps be traced back to our developmental time in the womb and immediately after birth?
According to researchers in Sweden, this crucial time could indeed determine whether or not we go on to develop RA. Crucial factors could include birth weight, gestational period, the age of the mother, the start of breastfeeding, and even the type of birth we had. Of these, birth weight and commencement of breastfeeding were perhaps the two most significant factors.
This small study - it explored the case reports of just 175 sufferers and controls - represents landmark research, nonetheless, and could point to the way we see many chronic, systemic conditions.
So be healthy before and during pregnancy, and breastfeed as soon as possible!
(Source: British Medical Journal, 2003; 326: 1068-9).