Why Does Menopause Bring on RA?

Menopause at earlier age boosts mild rheumatoid arthritis risk but not severe rheumatoid arthritis

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Menopause can be a time of massive change for many women. It is important to keep in mind that it's a natural change. But when menopause comes early, it could be a sign of arthritis to come.

Women who experience early menopause may be more likely to develop a milder form of rheumatoid arthritis.

"See your doctor if you are going through early menopause."

Menopause is a time when hormonal changes eventually stops a women from menstruating and prevents a women from being able to conceive. Women normally go through menopause at age 45 or after.

However, some women experience this period of change a little earlier.

According to Mitra Pikwer, MD, of Skåne University Hospital in Sweden and lead author of the current study, "We already know that hormonal factors may influence the risk of [rheumatoid arthritis], but this is the first study we know of that investigates the impact of menopausal age on the severity of [rheumatoid arthritis]."

Dr. Pikwer and colleagues found that women older than 45 years of age with a history of early menopause had a 50 percent lower risk of developing severe rheumatoid arthritis. However, these women were more likely to develop a milder for of rheumatoid arthritis.

The severity of rheumatoid arthritis did not change much if a women had a history of breastfeeding or birth control use.

These findings suggest that hormonal changes may affect disease processes that are different from those that lead to more severe forms of rheumatoid arthritis.

"This is an important breakthrough, both in helping us understand the impact that hormones may have on the development of this disease and potentially also in helping us predict the long-term prognosis of our patients," says Dr. Pikwer.

For their study, the researchers examined 134 cases of rheumatoid arthritis in women who had answered a questionnaire between 1991 and 1996.

Their findings were presented at the 2012 Annual Congress of the European League Against Rheumatism. The study has yet to be assessed by a peer-reviewed academic journal.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 11, 2012
Last Updated:
October 23, 2012