11:51 AM

How Arthritis Impacts Your Overall Health

Getmegiddy.com interviews experts including Caroline Siegel, MD, rheumatology fellow at HSS about how different forms and stages of arthritis can impact overall health in various ways.

Hormonal changes can alleviate or exacerbate arthritis symptoms, said Dr. Siegel. Although these effects apply to people of all sexes and genders, people assigned female at birth (AFAB) are most likely to be affected.

However, because levels of corticosteroids, estrogen and progesterone increase during pregnancy, Dr.  Siegel noted about half of birthing people experience improvement or remission in their arthritis. Postpartum flare-ups are extremely common. Arthritis symptoms also tend to worsen during and after menopause, again because of changing hormone levels. There's some indication people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have lower testosterone levels than people without, though the reason is unknown, Dr. Siegel cited.

"Different studies have found that postmenopausal women and men with lower testosterone levels may have an increased risk of a specific subtype of RA, known as 'seronegative' RA because it is defined by the absence of certain autoantibodies seen in typical, or 'seropositive,' RA," she explained. "Overall, there is substantial scientific evidence supporting the general idea that sex hormones play a role in the development and evolution of RA, but neither their specific role nor the underlying reasons for these associations are fully understood." 

Sexual health is imperative to overall health and well-being, and can help regulate the nervous system, promote stress reduction, stimulate endorphin release and improve mood. However, people with arthritis encounter problems with sexual and reproductive health due to the disease itself, physical and psychiatric comorbidities, and the side effects of medications used to treat the condition, Dr. Siegel said.

Read the full article at Getmegiddy.com.