Rheumatoid Arthritis and the Impact of Fluctuating Hormones

by WV Marshall

As if it isn’t difficult enough to discern ‘this symptom’ from ‘that indicator’ while navigating through menopause, women also may have to distinguish between menopausal symptoms and the onset of inflammatory arthritis if it occurs during menopause, as is typically the case with rheumatoid arthritis, Dr. Bonnie Bermas, a rheumatologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (Dallas), said in a blog published by www.arthritis.org.

(Inflammatory arthritis, which features inflammatory white blood cells in joint fluid, includes rheumatoid arthritis, lupus arthritis and gout.)

Not only are they similar, but the symptoms of menopause also can intensify symptoms of inflammatory arthritis.

Menopause can disrupt sleep, potentially exacerbating fatigue and increasing vulnerability to pain. Unpredictable hormones can increase anxiety and depression. Vaginal dryness can also be aggravated.

“Women with inflammatory arthritis are often predisposed to osteoporosis due to underlying disease as well as medications that are used to manage disease,” Bermas said. “There are also data to suggest that women with inflammatory arthritis are more prone to cardiovascular disease.”

So what can women with RA do? Bermas recommends they should work with their medical providers to ensure their arthritis is as controlled as possible – and helps to minimize risks. Bermas also recommends keeping both blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control, and quitting smoking (if applicable) to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.