Menopause and rheumatoid arthritis may share a connection related to hormones. However, experts don’t fully understand or agree on the link.

Menopause occurs when a person doesn’t have their period for 12 consecutive months for no other reason. It naturally occurs around the age of 50, though it can occur earlier or later based on the person.

Some studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that when a person goes through menopause, their RA symptoms get worse.

However, a 2020 study has shown that female reproductive hormones play no role in the development or severity of RA. They also noted that previous studies showed hormones had a protective effect, negative effect, or no effect at all.

Previous studies have shown a connection may exist between menopause and RA. The problem is that the studies haven’t agreed on exactly how or even if menopause has any effect on RA.

In a 2017 review of studies, researchers also noted that the effects of menopause on RA couldn’t be determined. The review noted some of the discrepancies across studies including the following:

  • Some studies showed RA and menopause symptoms occurred at the same time for several people.
  • Another study showed that early onset menopause (before age 45) resulted in milder RA symptoms.
  • Another study showed that early onset menopause had an association with postmenopausal onset of RA.
  • Some anecdotal studies showed hormone replacement therapy had a positive impact on RA symptoms while others showed no results.

Still, a report published in 2018 indicated that menopause can cause additional or worsening symptoms in people living with RA. The study authors said that hormones may play a protective role in RA but also noted that additional research is needed to fully show or understand the connection.

Another study published in 2017 also noted that several hormone factors in women, including early onset and postmenopause onset, play a role in RA development and worsening. However, like other studies, they noted that additional research is needed to fully show and prove the connection between female hormones and RA.

You can take steps to manage the symptoms of both menopause and RA. For some people, treatments that help with menopause may also help with RA symptoms, but this isn’t necessarily always the case.

Treatments for menopause often include one or more of the following:

  • low dose hormone birth control
  • nonhormonal medication
  • over the counter or prescription products to treat vaginal dryness, pain, or other symptoms
  • low dose selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI)
  • hormone replacement therapy

You may find that certain supplements, such as soy, may help with menopause symptoms. You may also benefit from body and mind practices such as yoga, acupuncture, and meditation.

Some other steps you can take to manage menopause symptoms and risks can include:

  • remaining physically active and getting regular exercise
  • checking bone density regularly
  • taking vitamin D and calcium supplements
  • talking with your partner and healthcare professional about your sexual health and needs
  • practicing good sleep hygiene, including sleeping in a dark, cool room, limiting heavy meals before bed, avoiding bright lights at bedtime, and exercising earlier in the day

Some suggestions for managing RA are similar to managing menopause. Some home-based care you can try include:

  • engaging in daily movement and exercise
  • eating a healthy diet
  • using supplements, such as turmeric
  • using hot and cold therapy for joints
  • using topical products

Does hormone therapy have an effect?

Some evidence suggests that hormone therapy may have an effect on both menopause and RA, while other evidence suggests not.

According to a 2017 review, studies have shown both positive and negative effects of hormone replacement therapy on RA symptoms. They indicate that more evidence is needed to make any conclusions regarding this treatment option and how it relates to RA.

You should talk with your doctor before making any major changes to your RA treatment routine, such as stopping or increasing the use of medication.

Also, you should talk with your doctor before adding a supplement to your diet to make sure it does not interfere with your current treatments.

You may also want to consider talking with your doctor if your RA or menopause symptoms become worse. They may be able to recommend additional therapies, make changes to current treatments, or make other recommendations.

RA and menopause may share a common connection due to the possible interaction between RA and hormones.

At this time, data isn’t sufficient enough to show whether hormones and menopause have a negative effect, a protective effect, or no effect at all.

If you find your symptoms of RA getting worse during menopause, you should talk with your doctor to let them know what is going on. They may be able to suggest changes to your treatment.

You can also take steps at home, including getting regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, practicing good sleep hygiene, and using supplements to help improve your symptoms.