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Causes of rheumatoid arthritis in women


Like most autoimmune diseases, rheumatoid arthritis affects more women than men. Although we do not know the causes, we can point to risk factors that explain these differences.

Women account for 80 percent of patients with autoimmune diseases and are particularly vulnerable to these pathologies between the ages of 20 and 40. However, there are differences in the way these diseases affect women. The rheumatoid arthritisFor example, it is more prevalent after childbirth or in the menopause.

Female hormones, in particular oestrogen, act as a protective factor against rheumatoid arthritis. It has been proven that when the levels of this hormone fall, the risk of suffering from the disease increases. On the other hand, the use of contraceptives or pregnancy are stages in which this risk decreases.

However, hormones are not the only reason why arthritis affects women more. Among others, we can point out:

  • Women produce more antibodies and in general have a stronger autoimmune system and this can be counterproductive when this system attacks the body itself, as in the case of autoimmune diseases.
  • The sedentary life is a risk factor.
  • The stiffness and increased cholesterol can result from the accumulation of fatty deposits around body tissues, which is more common in women.

The journal Nature Immunology published a study in 2016 that broke new ground in the research on the gender differences in the incidence of autoimmune diseases and is based on gene expression.. This study showed that more than 600 genes, many with immune function, were expressed differently between the two sexes. One of these genetic pathways is inflammatory and has been found to promote autoimmunity in women.

But why is it important to point out the reasons why autoimmune diseases affect women more often? prevention as well as treatment can be more effective the closer we get to the causes of the disease and, in addition, there are circumstances that need to be dealt with specifically. Pregnancy is one of them.

Although pregnancy is not incompatible with the diseaseIf a woman is suffering from the disease, careful planning should be made to adjust a medication during this period. In addition, the feeling of tiredness or lack of energy may be greater for women with the disease. However, the disease often improves during pregnancy and it is the postpartum phase that requires the most care, as the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, pain and stiffness, make it more difficult to care for the mother and baby. For this reason, specialists always recommend that mothers ask for help from the very beginning.

How can we prevent rheumatoid arthritis?

Autoimmune diseases are underpinned by an important genetic factor which, in contact with triggerscauses the disease to emerge. How form of preventionWe can only act on these factors, which are environmental:

  • The feedingThe more natural and balanced it is, the better. Overweight is an enemy of the joints.
  • Food supplements. The omega-3 acts as an anti-inflammatory and calcium and vitamin D prevent osteoporosis, which is a risk of conventional treatments.
  • The tobacco and alcohol weaken the bone structure, which can complicate the course of the disease.
  • The physical exerciseThe use of a special treatment, especially strengthening the muscles around the joints, will help to slow down the symptoms of the disease and maintain the quality of life.

Is there an effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is considered to be a systemic and chronic disease which is conventionally treated with a set of drugs that are administered throughout life and can have side effects, such as corticosteroids. In recent years, biological therapies have been gaining momentum.

Recently, Antonio Mera, head of the Rheumatology Service of the EOXI Santiago, at the Forum on Innovation Management in Rheumatology held in March 2018 in Galicia, stated that "the biological therapies have led to a very significant increase in the percentage of patients with rheumatoid arthritis who improve and those who go into remission.

At Biosalud Day Hospital we know the effectiveness of these therapies, which can be very diverse.

Mariano Bueno

Dr. Mariano Bueno and his team

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