JAN 19, 2024 9:49 AM PST

Identifying the relationship between hormonal change and autoimmune disease

WRITTEN BY: Greta Anne

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease affecting many women worldwide. A study published in Rheumatoid and Musculoskeletal Diseases Open draws upon data from the UK Biobank, a large-scale population-based cohort, sheds light on findings that could reshape our understanding of RA and inform future intervention strategies.

The study investigated the impact of age at menarche, the onset of menstruation, on RA risk. Strikingly, women with a later onset (above 14 years) and those with an earlier onset both exhibited an increased risk of RA. 

Menopause also was demonstrated to be a pivotal factor in RA, with postmenopausal women exhibiting a higher risk of RA. Early menopause (before age 45) was associated with a more substantial increase in RA risk compared to menopause occurring at the age of 50–51. Additionally, women with reproductive years less than 33 showed an increased risk of RA. This suggests that the duration of exposure to hormonal fluctuations during a woman's reproductive life may influence RA susceptibility.

The study delves into surgical interventions such as hysterectomy and oophorectomy, finding that both procedures are associated with an elevated risk of RA. Surgically-induced menopause, resulting from these procedures, alters the natural hormonal balance, potentially contributing to immune system dysregulation and increasing RA risk.

The use of oral contraceptive pills did not show a clear association with RA risk. However, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) did show a clear association with RA risk. Women using HRT exhibited a higher risk of RA, with the duration of HRT use per year being positively correlated with RA risk. This finding poses a paradox, considering that HRT is commonly used to alleviate menopausal symptoms. The study raises questions about the potential impact of HRT on joint health and the delicate balance of hormones within the body.

As we delve deeper into the intricate web of hormonal influences on autoimmune diseases, this study provides a foundation for further research and a more comprehensive understanding of RA pathophysiology.

Sources: Rheumatoid and Musculoskeletal Diseases Open

About the Author
Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD)
Greta holds her PharmD and is a writer at Labroots. She also has a strong background in neuroscience & psychology. When she is not working as a pharmacist or a writer, she enjoys fostering her creative initiatives such as traveling, working out, spending time at the beach, and cooking!
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