HRT can help ease symptoms of menopause, like hot flashes, sleep issues, and more. Recent research suggests that it may also help with a certain type of arthritis. Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, commonly affects people as they reach middle age or older. Women on hormone therapy may benefit from some protective benefits against osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is a major concern for menopausal and post-menopausal women. In fact, in the Women’s Health Initiative, approximately 77% of the post-menopausal women in the study reported joint pain. Also, 40% noted joint swelling.
Many of the women in the study that started estrogen replacement therapy noted that the frequency of joint pain went down after starting treatment. Therefore, HRT may help reduce joint pain for those with osteoarthritis.
However, another recent study suggests that HRT may even help slow the progression of osteoarthritis. The study conducted in Korea and published in the North American Menopause Society’s journal, Menopause, noted some interesting findings on the effects of hormone therapy and knee arthritis.
In the study, the women who were on HRT for one year or longer had lower rates of osteoarthritis. Rates of arthritis in the hormone replacement therapy group were about 30% lower than those who didn’t take hormones. The researchers also noted that hormone therapy may help reduce the deterioration of cartilage as seen through X-rays.
So, what is osteoarthritis? This is a type of arthritis where the cartilage in your joints wears away. This cartilage sits between the edges of your bones as a type of cushion. It helps protect the edges of your bones.
However, when this wears away, then bone starts to grind on bone. This can leave the bone edges indented and rough. Some symptoms of osteoarthritis include joint pain, swelling, and stiffness.
About 30 million people suffer from this type of arthritis and it’s one of the leading causes of pain and physical disability. It’s more common for women around the time of menopause. In fact, after age 45, it affects more women than men. Because of this divide, some doctors and medical researchers have considered that declining levels of hormones may play a role and that HRT may help with this type of arthritis.
You may be wondering why HRT may help with osteoarthritis. While research is ongoing, there are several reasons why researchers are studying this link. As we’ve mentioned, rates of osteoarthritis in women rise dramatically around the average age of menopause. Symptoms also tend to get worse around this time. This has led many to wonder whether the rapid decline in estrogen during menopause may influence this type of arthritis. In addition, because HRT can help with some of the effects of menopause, there’s a question of whether it may help with osteoarthritis as well.
Also, researchers have found that women who undergo a hysterectomy or have their ovaries removed experience higher rates of knee and hand osteoarthritis. These procedures are sort of like an “artificial” menopause that cause estrogen levels to drop significantly, similar to how they do naturally during menopause. Therefore, there may be a link between estrogen levels and this type of arthritis.
So, why might estrogen help slow the progression of osteoarthritis? There may be several factors that may help explain why.
One potential answer to help explain the effects of the study is that joint tissues contain estrogen receptors. Therefore, the cartilage in your bones may respond to this hormone. This may help prevent small changes in the cartilage that occur with wear and tear. Also, these estrogen receptors may influence inflammation, which may lead to pain.
In addition, estrogen may help your body process calcium. Calcium is a vitamin that helps build your bones and keep them strong. Therefore, estrogen may also play a role in keeping your bones and joints healthy by this means.
Also, estrogen has naturally anti-inflammatory effects. This can help reduce pain and swelling in your joints if you have arthritis. However, once we enter menopause, our natural estrogen levels drop significantly, which may take away much of the anti-inflammatory protection.
Estrogen replacement therapy can help raise estrogen levels in your body, which may also help fight inflammation. This, in turn, can help reduce swelling and pain from osteoarthritis. Therefore, this may explain why women on HRT report less frequent joint pain.
One of the most important risk factors for osteoarthritis is obesity. Many women gain weight during menopause and some attribute this in part to a lack of estrogen. Estrogen may play a role in how your body distributes fat. Women on HRT may have an easier time maintaining a healthy weight. This could be because of estrogen’s effects on body fat distribution.
Another potential reason why women on hormones for menopause may have an easier time keeping extra pounds off is because HRT can help reduce symptoms that make it difficult to follow a healthy lifestyle.
For example, many women experience sleep problems during menopause because of night sweats. Hormone replacement therapy can help reduce night sweats so you can get a better night’s sleep. When you’re well-rested, it’s often easier to exercise to keep your weight in a healthy range.
This is just one example of how HRT may indirectly affect your overall health in ways that may also help with arthritis. While research continues, these studies are an exciting development in the world of hormone replacement therapy.
Whether you’re interested in bioidentical hormones to help relieve menopause symptoms or want to discuss other symptoms, our team at HerKare is here for you. Our goal is to provide compassionate, personalized care for women. We offer advanced health care for women at all stages of life. Book an appointment today to learn how we can help you feel better.