Rheumatoid arthritis found to worsen with menopause

rheumatoidRheumatoid arthritis and menopause are linked, according to new research that involved observations of arthritic symptoms in pre-menopausal and post-menopausal women. The research that was recently published in Rheumatology is based on a study of 8,189 middle-aged women who were suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.

Some background

The study is based on the previously established connection between hormonal changes in women suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and their physical function. Hormonal changes during pregnancy and childbirth were observed to have a positive impact on the physical condition of women with rheumatoid arthritis, whereas women in the post-partum phase would experience a flare-up of the disease.


In addition, doctors observed that women who experienced early or premature menopause were more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis compared to those who experienced it at the normal age or even later in life.
These observations helped scientists establish links between rheumatoid arthritis and the reproductive events in their lives. In order to investigate further, scientists decided to study menopause in relation to rheumatoid arthritis.

The study

This was an observational study in which researchers selected female participants in the menopausal age. The sample selected included the following categories of women:

  • 2,005 pre-menopausal women who comprised 24.5 percent of the participants
  • 611 women who had transitioned into menopause, who comprised 7.5 percent of the participants
  • 5,573 post-menopausal women comprised 68.1 percent of the participants

Researchers observed the degree of functional decline associated with rheumatoid arthritis in these three groups of women.

Findings and their significance

Researchers noticed that pre-menopausal women showed a lesser physical decline compared to post-menopausal women. This helped them to establish a link between menopause and rheumatoid arthritis.


The observations helped researchers to conclude that menopause significantly affects the level and rate of functional decline caused by rheumatoid arthritis and worsens its progression. Post-menopausal women experience a greater decline in their physical function if they suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.

According to Elizabeth Mollard, the paper’s lead author, this study should be used for further research that can help doctors identify treatments that can help women suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, with the aim to improve the physical function in postmenopausal women. This would help to reduce their suffering and also reduce costs in general.

Related: Menopause and depression: Causes of menopausal and post-menopausal depression



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