A fellow blogger recently wrote about the correlation between chronic pain caused by her Still’s Disease and her monthly visitor… and this really got me thinking. What is the correlation between lady hormones and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) pain? Here are a few things we already know.
- RA affects three times as many women as it does men
- Many women begin feeling their first RA symptoms after giving birth
So I started keeping track of my own symptoms and doing some additional online research.
It turns out I DO feel absolutely terrible just before and after aunt flow is in town. I mean most girls I know might get bitchy or some occasional cramps before the painter is in, but I straight up can’t walk or function. It just isn’t right!
And if my personal story isn’t convincing enough, Medicine.net says the following.
Researchers are finding that the immune system is influenced by signals from the female reproductive hormones. It seems that the levels of hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, as well as changes in these levels can promote autoimmunity. “Autoimmunity” is a condition whereby the immune system (which normally wards off foreign invaders of the body, such as infections) turns and attacks the body’s own tissues, such as skin, joints, liver, lungs, etc. Autoimmune diseases typically feature inflammation of various tissues of the body.
Autoimmune diseases are also characterized by a disorder of the immune system with the abnormal production of antibodies (autoantibodies) that are directed against the tissues of the body. Examples of autoimmune diseases include not only those that feature inflammation in the joints, such as systemic lupus erythematosus, Sjogren’s syndrome, and rheumatoid arthritis, but also disease of other organs, such as occurs in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and juvenile diabetes mellitus.
When women report only having symptoms or having increased symptoms at monthly intervals that coincide with their menstrual periods, many doctors will recommend adjusting or adding medication to reduce inflammation selectively just before and during the period. The rationale for this short-term adjustment is that the immune system may be temporarily more active as women’s hormone levels change during their periods. The additional medication can frequently help to avoid the symptom roller coaster that affects many women with arthritis.
This leads me to question why not one single Rheumatologist, or OBGYN for that matter has ever discussed the correlation between hormones and RA with me? It seems clear that a relationship between the two exists. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and start tracking your monthly friend to see if you find a pattern. I’d love to hear your feedback.