The menopause journey is a significant phase in a woman’s life, marking the end of reproductive years.
While this transition is often associated with hormonal changes and various symptoms, another aspect that deserves attention is the potential impact of menopause on arthritis.
This article delves into the connection between menopause and arthritis, shedding light on how hormonal shifts can influence arthritis symptoms and management during this transformative phase.
Menopause typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 and is characterised by the natural decline in reproductive hormones, primarily oestrogen and progesterone.
As these hormones fluctuate and eventually decrease, multiple changes occur in a woman’s body, leading to the end of menstrual cycles and fertility.
The Menopause and Arthritis Connection
Research suggests that hormonal changes during menopause can influence arthritis symptoms, especially for women who already have arthritis. While the connection is not fully understood, it is believed that the decline in oestrogen levels may play a role in worsening arthritis symptoms.
Some research regarding the connection between menopause and arthritis found conflicting results. For instance, a handful of small-scale studies found a surprising reduction in disease activity and flares among people with lupus after menopause.
These studies lacked evidence linking reducing hormone levels to decreased flares. Investigations have demonstrated that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) might increase the risk of mild-to-moderate flares in lupus patients.
Some other studies show that when women go through menopause and their hormone levels become lower, their bodies might make more of the proteins that cause inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Other studies found that women with RA who have gone through menopause might find it harder to do everyday things compared to women with RA who haven’t reached menopause yet.
Surprisingly, a large-scale study in 2020 looked at more than 1.3 million women and didn’t find a clear link between RA and reproductive factors like menopause. This study did find a small increase in RA risk for those who use hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Another study in 2021 also found no strong connection between RA and menopause, age of initial menstruation, or pregnancy.
Here’s a closer look at how menopause may impact different types of arthritis:
#1. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): Some women with RA experience changes in symptom severity during menopause. The decline in oestrogen levels might lead to increased inflammation and joint pain for some individuals.
#2. Osteoarthritis Menopause-related hormonal changes can affect bone density, potentially worsening osteoarthritis symptoms. Oestrogen loss is linked to decreased collagen production, which can impact joint health.
#3. Lupus: Women with lupus may experience fluctuating disease activity during menopause due to hormonal shifts.
Managing Arthritis During Menopause
Navigating the menopause and arthritis combination requires multiple approaches:
#1. Consult Your Healthcare Provider: Regular communication with your healthcare provider is essential. They can help monitor arthritis symptoms and recommend adjustments in your management plan if needed.
#2. Pain Management: Incorporating pain-relief strategies like gentle exercises, physical therapy, and heat/cold therapy can help alleviate joint discomfort.
For more information, read our free infosheet on Arthritis and Emotional Wellbeing.
#3. Lifestyle Modifications: Adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, stress management, and sufficient sleep can contribute to overall well-being.
For more information, read our free infosheet on Healthy Eating and Arthritis.
#4. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): In some cases, HRT might be recommended by healthcare professionals to manage menopause symptoms. However, its impact on arthritis symptoms varies and should be discussed thoroughly.
#5. Medication Review: If you’re taking arthritis medications, consult your healthcare provider to ensure their effectiveness and safety during menopause.
#6. Stay Informed: Understanding the connection between menopause and arthritis empowers you to make informed decisions about your health and well-being.
The journey through menopause is a unique experience for every woman, and its interaction with arthritis can make it quite complex.
By acknowledging the potential impact of hormonal changes on arthritis symptoms and seeking appropriate management strategies, women can navigate this phase with resilience.
Consultation with healthcare professionals, embracing a healthy lifestyle, and staying informed about the latest research are crucial steps in effectively managing both menopause and arthritis.
Remember, this is a journey of change, and with the right support and knowledge, you can empower yourself to maintain your health and well-being during this transformative time.
How Arthritis NSW can help
- Speak with a peer-mentor in our free telephone service, Arthritis Assist.
- Access more information on arthritis, health, and emotional wellbeing. Download free information sheets and booklets, or read a range of arthritis articles.
- Join our fortnightly eNews and stay up-to-date with arthritis information
- Register for our online gentle exercise classes.
- Have questions about living with arthritis? Call our free Infoline 1800 011 041 to speak with a member of our health team.
Arthritis Foundation. Linda Rath. 23 September 2022. Menopause with a Rheumatic Disease. Available from: https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/family-relationships/family-planning/menopause-with-a-rheumatic-disease