HRT, Hormones and Rheumatoid Arthritis - Arthritis Action

HRT, Hormones and Rheumatoid Arthritis

11 January 2024

A new study published in the British Medical Journal hit the headlines this week suggesting that hormonal factors such as age of menopause, the use of HRT, and the number of children women bear, play a part on whether they are at increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

Arthritis Action’s Medical Adviser Dr Wendy Holden commented:

“We already know that there is a link between female hormones and rheumatoid arthritis as some women with rheumatoid arthritis find that their arthritis becomes much less active during pregnancy, then can flare up again a few weeks after the baby is born. This study adds to this knowledge base, however the results seem a little contradictory as the authors report both an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis in women who have an early menopause i.e are deficient in female hormones, and in those who take HRT, who by definition are not deficient in female hormones.

 The cause of rheumatoid arthritis remains unknown and is likely to be due to both genetic and many possible environmental factors, one of which may be female hormones. Women taking HRT and those thinking of taking HRT should not be alarmed by this research as for most women the benefits of HRT outweigh any risks, however any woman who develops persistent joint stiffness, pain or swelling should seek medical help as the sooner rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed and treated, the less likely joints will be damaged.” 

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