(HealthDay News) – The age of menopause is associated with the severity of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), with early menopause predicting a milder form of the disease.

To investigate whether hormonal predictors of RA impact disease severity, Mitra Pikwer, MD, from Skåne University Hospital in Malmö, Sweden, and colleagues conducted a retrospective study involving 134 patients who completed a questionnaire in a community health survey (1991–1996) and developed incident RA.

The researchers found that, among patients with severe RA, all patients had been treated with biologic treatment, 89% were positive for rheumatoid factor, 85% had ever had erosions, and the mean Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) score after five years was 1.17. In the mild/moderate RF-positive and mild/moderate RF-negative clusters, none of the patients had been treated with biologics; 56 and 52%, respectively, had erosions; and, after five years, the mean HAQ score was 0.74 and 0.88, respectively. Menopause before or after the age of 45 years correlated with a significant difference in the distribution of these clusters. Those with early menopause had a decreased likelihood of developing severe RA (16 vs. 35%) and an increased likelihood of developing mild/moderate RF-negative RA (58 vs. 20%).

“This is an important breakthrough, both in helping us understand the impact that hormones may have on the development of this disease and potentially also in helping us predict the long-term prognosis for our patients,” Pikwer said in a statement.

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