Post-menopausal women with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) experience faster physical decline than pre-menopausal women with the disease, according to a study involving more than 8,000 women and published in Rheumatology.
Symptoms of RA, including painful swelling in the joints that can lead to deformity, impaired function, and reduced quality of life, worsen in women after menopause. Earlier studies found that fluctuations in reproductive hormones can affect RA symptoms. Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis often improve during pregnancy, for example, and worsen during the post-partum period, and women who experience early menopause are at higher risk for developing RA than those who experience normal or late menopause.
Rheumatoid arthritis is three times more common in women than men, and women typically experience more severe symptoms. Gender-based differences in the disease are not well understood, so experts recommend more research examining the role of hormones in RA progression.