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What’s the Connection Between Menopause and Arthritis?

Menopause includes a lot more than just your periods bidding you adieu. It reigns in various menopause symptoms. One of these symptoms consists of a fall in the levels of oestrogen in your body. While oestrogen is found in both men and women, the latter has a whole lot more of it.

Researchers have found a link between oestrogen and osteoarthritis. It has been observed that women seem to develop osteoarthritis a lot more during postmenopause than at any other phase of their life. Since decreasing levels of oestrogen is the most prominent aspect of menopause, it could be assumed that therein lies the cause of osteoarthritis. Let's explore this connection a bit more.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is a condition that results in inflammation and stiffness in your joints, which could be quite painful. There different types of arthritis, namely rheumatoid arthritis and infectious arthritis, along with the most common one, osteoarthritis. 

Osteoarthritis is caused when the cartilage between your joints start to break down resulting in inflammation and a whole lot of pain. There are a few areas of your body more susceptible to developing osteoarthritis than others. These include your shoulders, knees and hips.

Research

The exact role that oestrogen plays in keeping your joints healthy, or their subsequent deterioration, is still unclear. Researchers observed in past studies a definite relationship between the levels of oestrogen in your body and your joints. Another study found risks of developing osteoarthritis due to a fall in oestrogen, which they concluded that oestrogen did play a definite but, as of yet, unknown role in it. 

All of the research agreed that menopausal women were far more likely to develop osteoarthritis.



Research has been conducted to incorporate estrogen replacement therapy in the treatment plan for osteoarthritis; however, there is no definite proof of its usefulness. 

Another study found positive results when they tried to use oestrogen and a selection of oestrogen receptor modulators to help deal with symptoms of osteoarthritis. While the results found made it clear that they are on the right path, more evidence is needed for this treatment to be seriously considered for treating osteoarthritis.

How safe is Estrogen replacement therapy?

Several menopause symptoms like hot flushes and night sweats are caused by a decrease in oestrogen. It is believed that estrogen replacement therapy can be useful in combating these symptoms of menopause. However, estrogen replacement therapy might come with its own set of side effects and risks like making you vulnerable to develop heart problems and breast cancer. 

Vital factors such as your age and no history of heart problems or breast cancer might lead your doctor to prescribe Oestrogen replacement therapy. A minimum dosage is administered, and you have to follow parameters for close observation in case of any side effects you might encounter.


Risk factors of osteoarthritis


Several factors can make you more susceptible to osteoarthritis in your life besides menopause and oestrogen replacement therapy. Some of these factors include being overweight, having bone deformities, and being genetically predisposed to osteoarthritis. Being female and over the age of 50 might make you vulnerable to osteoarthritis. Old joint injuries or vitamin and Omega 3 deficiencies can cause osteoarthritis to develop. Regular use of tobacco or other harmful substances can increase your chances of developing it. Having a history of diabetes, and doing physical work that takes a toll on your body can also result in opening the door for osteoarthritis to stroll in. 



Symptoms of osteoarthritis 


There are various symptoms of osteoarthritis, including weak, stiff, and painful muscles & joints, bone spurs, cracking and grating noises, and fluid build-up. You may or may not experience a number of these symptoms. Their severity might also fluctuate based on which joint of the body is affected. 


When to consult a doctor


If you have been experiencing two or more of these symptoms consistently for an extended period, it might be time to pay your doctor a visit. They could check it for you and provide an expert diagnosis and treatment plan to manage your symptoms and provide relief. The doctor might put you through some tests, including an x-ray to make sure you do not have bone spurs or cartilage loss. A physical examination can help determine the range of motion and to test the strength of your joints. This can help your doctor determine if you have osteoarthritis, how far advanced along it is and to assess any damage. An MRI can also shed light on any soft tissue tears that are harder to catch. 



Treatment plan


While osteoarthritis has no known cure, some things could help you to relieve the pain and discomfort you might be experiencing. Make sure you maintain a healthy weight and include foods in your diet that are rich in calcium and vitamin D. Participating in some low impact exercises can also help and can provide immense relief from osteoarthritic pain. If your symptoms cannot be managed with lifestyle changes, you could go for anti-inflammatory medications, as well as pain killers or injections prescribed by your doctor. You could also opt for physical therapy if it helps you maintain a healthy lifestyle. If your case is severe enough, your doctor might suggest surgery like joint replacement or arthroscopy. 

Older women are more at risk of developing osteoarthritis due to a fall in their levels of oestrogen, so there are further lifestyle changes required. These include maintaining a well-balanced diet with all the vitamins and minerals your body craves. Exercising to maintain a proper weight and avoiding overworking your joints by doing repetitive work is your best bet to keep your bones strong and healthy straight through post-menopause.

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