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Arthritis has greater impact on women, study shows

Thursday January 15th, 2009

By Jane Collingwood

Women suffer a greater burden of rheumatoid arthritis than men, new research suggests.

The possibility of gender differences in rheumatoid arthritis and a potential link to outcomes, has been investigated for many decades. But there is currently no consensus on the issue.

After recent reports suggest that women are less likely than men to achieve remission, Dr Tuulikki Sokka from the Jyvaskyla Central Hospital, Finland, and colleagues carried out a study of 6,004 patients at 70 sites in 25 countries.

Of the participants, 79 per cent were female, more than 90 per cent were Caucasian, and mean age was 57 years.

Women had poorer scores than men on all measures of disease activity such as swollen joints, tender joints, pain, as well as fatigue, the presence of rheumatoid erosions and current use of common medications.

Dr Sokka said: "The possible influence of gender and gender-related variables on the symptoms, severity, and prognosis of rheumatoid arthritis has been of considerable interest for some time. Generally, women report more severe symptoms, greater disability, and often have higher work disability rates than men."

In Arthritis Research and Therapy, the authors point out: "most of the gender differences in rheumatoid arthritis disease activity may originate from the measures of disease activity rather than from rheumatoid arthritis disease activity itself."

Dr Sokka explains: "Women have less strength than men, which has as much of a major effect in the functional status of patients with rheumatoid arthritis as it does in the healthy population. The same burden of a musculoskeletal disease may appear to be more harmful to a woman than to a man."

Sokka, T. et al. Women, men, and rheumatoid arthritis: analyses of disease activity, disease characteristics, and treatments in the QUEST-RA Study. Arthritis Research & Therapy, published online January 14, 2009.

Tags: Europe | Rheumatology | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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