- Author Sony Eguabor
- Published February 18, 2021
- Word count 1,090
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and damages the joints and, sometimes, other organs. This is unlike the most common arthritis like osteoarthritis which is a specific disease of the cartilage in joints. RA is a chronic and inflammatory disease that causes pain, swelling, stiffness, and loss of function in the joints and other areas of the body.
RA often presents itself in a symmetrical pattern, meaning that it attacks both the left and right sides of the joint involved. If one knee or hand is involved, the other one will be attacked too.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) seems to affect more women than men probably because of the actions of female hormones in their body mechanism. Since women’s role in the reproductive area requires some specific hormone to enhance it to functions properly, and this type of hormone is quite different from the male fertility hormone. These play a major role in the onset of the disease.
Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms occur mostly the same way in men and women, but the differences lie in when, how, and why they first appear.
One common feature of RA is that the symptoms come and go. At the time people with this condition might experience flare-ups when their symptoms are worse. They can also experience remission when the disease is less severe.
The genesis of RA is not too clear, but there are noted histories of environmental and genetic risk factors which can be overweight and smoking. Although hormonal factors also contribute to around 75 percent of people who have RA are women.
Some set of people relate old age to RA, but this is not the case. According to the statistics given by Arthritis Foundation, the average onset of RA is between the ages of 30 and 60 years old, and children can also get it.
It is easier to diagnose RA early in women than men. Women can be diagnosed as early as when they are in their mid-30s and then again after the mid-40s. The symptoms of RA can spread around many different parts of the body if not tackled in time.
Why Is Rheumatoid Arthritis More Common In Women?
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a more common phenomenon that occurs in women more than it is in men. There is no clear-cut scientific reason why this is so, but some school of thoughts refers to the nature of women and their role in reproduction.
Out of 27 million Americans with osteoarthritis, about 60 percent of them are women. Age factor plays a role when you talk of arthritis in general. It is common for men to be affected from the age of 55. The number of women of the same age surpasses the number of men. And from 55 upwards, the women with the symptoms of arthritis are on the upward movement. But rheumatoid arthritis which is an autoimmune disease can occur earlier in both sexes.
RA affects the joints mainly, but other parts are also affected.
Before the menstrual flow of a woman, during the flow, and after the flow, there are always hormonal changes in the system. Also, hormonal changes that occurred before and after giving birth can affect a woman’s risk of developing RA. In most women, there is a link between hormonal changes and the onset of RA.
Since hormones are agents of actions in our body. Their balance maintenance is very important for good functionality. Hormones are complex chemical structures in the body, and what triggers their role in RA remains unclear. Depending on the level of hormone balance in each one and the level of body defense tolerance in fighting infections might determine the onset in each individual.
Here is what can influence Rheumatoid Arthritis in women compared to men:
- Pregnancy: When a woman becomes pregnant, the body system changes. And as the body system changes, hormones level changes. Women are naturally weaker during pregnancy and more sensitive to touch, or things around them.
The blood volume increases and the packed cell volume decreases. The immunity level might also decrease depending on the prenatal care. And when the immunity level decreases, it might give chance to any opportunistic infection to set in.
Postpartum: Postpartum is a stage women go through after giving birth. Some school of thought believes that some women tend to develop RA in the first year after giving birth. This might be due to the rapid change in hormone levels in the body at this time, especially if postpartum medication, hygiene, and personal care are not adhered to.
Breastfeeding: Full breastfeeding deactivates and inhibits the fertility hormone from being active. If done for up to 1 year may decrease the risk of developing RA. But some rheumatologist experts are divided on this issue.
Menopause: Menopause is a condition when a woman stops to see her monthly flow. Before menopause, hormonal changes occur in women and they complain of different kinds of symptoms. The level of estrogen tends to decline after the age of 40, and women have a higher risk of developing RA after 40. Some experience early or late menopause, but those who experienced theirs early tends to be at more risk of having RA
Endometriosis: Endometriosis occurs when endometrial tissue grows or is present in areas of the body other than the uterine cavity. Rheumatologist expert relates some female-specific hormones to be involved in stimulating the growth of this lining. Women who have endometriosis are also linked with low immunity and may be more at risk of developing RA.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): PCOS is known to affect and changes the hormone levels in the body, thereby causing irregular menstrual periods and fertility problems. It can also increase the risk of developing RA, but the actual link is complicated.
Hormone medication: Fertility hormones are supposed to be balanced. Any case of low or high will affect the fertility of the woman. Some hormones are used to treat various conditions relating to women. For example, anti-estrogen medication can help treat infertility, breast cancer, and osteoporosis after menopause. It can also increase a woman’s risk of developing RA depending on the dosage used.
Conclusion: All the above are likely ways of developing RA which is specific to women. Women are unique, and all these conditions listed above are unique to women. Men also develop RA, but the frequency is high in women. It is not common to see a man with RA at the early age of say 30-40, but for women, it is not so with them.
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