Hormone replacement therapy and early menopause can cause arthritis, according to a new study.
Other hormonal and reproductive factors that increase the chances of getting the debilitating condition include getting hysterectomies, having four or more children, and starting periods after the age of 14, suggest the findings.
Women are much more susceptible to rheumatoid arthritis(RA) than men are, being around four to five times more likely to develop the autoimmune disease before the age of 50 and twice as likely to do so between the ages of 60-70.
The researchers also note that the disease seems to take a greater physical toll on women than it does on men. The team set out to see what hormonal and reproductive factors could be contributing to women’s increased struggle with the condition.
They studied data from 223,526 participants whose health was tracked for an average of 12 years in an attempt to determine whether reproductive and hormonal factors could be causing women to experience the condition more frequently. During this time, 3313 (1.5 percent) women developed rheumatoid arthritis and several hormonal and reproductive factors were found to be associated with heightened disease risk.
The results, published in RMD Open, revealed the most influential risk factors were going through menopause before the age of 45 and HRT use, which both led to a 46 percent heightened risk.
The second most influential was having a hysterectomy which caused a 40 percent increase, followed by having fewer than 33 reproductive years which caused a 39 percent increase.
Other risk factors included the removal of one or both ovaries (21 percent increase), having four or more children (18 percent increase), and starting periods after the age of 14 (17 percent increase).
“Some hormonal and reproductive factors were associated with a higher risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Hormonal and reproductive factors should be considered in risk assessment and formulating management plans in female patients with RA,” said Dr. Hai-Feng Pan of Anhui Medical University, China.
“The findings of this study are significant and form a basis on which novel and target-specific intervention measures to curb the risk of rheumatoid arthritis in women may be developed,” he added.
Rheumatoid arthritis can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints and affects about 400,000 people in the UK, according to the NHS. Since it’s an autoimmune condition, the swelling and pain may be brought on by your immune system attacking your joints.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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