Question: Can an infection or previous medical condition increase my risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis?
Answer: We don't yet know exactly what causes rheumatoid arthritis in most people. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition in which your immune system is working against your own body. And there's some thought that foreign bacteria or foreign viruses or other things may actually trigger that in some patients.
But at this point, we don't know of specific illnesses or specific infections that may predispose a patient to getting rheumatoid arthritis. We do know however that smoking, among the other things that it does, does predispose patients to getting rheumatoid arthritis.