Marla Ahlgrimm Reveals Surprising Facts About Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a painful autoimmune disease that leaves joints stiff and weak. And it affects women three times as much as men. Women’s healthcare expert Marla Ahlgrimm says the reasons aren’t fully understood but researchers continue to seek answers. Here, Ahlgrimm discusses this common form of arthritis.
Q: What is rheumatoid arthritis?
Marla Ahlgrimm: RA (also known as atrophic arthritis) is a chronic inflammatory syndrome that presents with pain and swelling in the joints. It most commonly affects the feet and hands but may spread if left untreated. Severe RA may also cause bone erosion and deformities.
Q: Who gets RA?
Marla Ahlgrimm: RA, like other autoimmune diseases, is diagnosed in both men and women. However, women are identified as having rheumatoid arthritis three times more often than men. Of the 50 million Americans currently suffering from arthritis, 1.5 million of these cases are RA.
Q: Why are women more at-risk for this disease?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Researchers have been trying to answer that question for at least the last decade. The prevailing theory is that women simply seek medical treatment for pain more often than men. Vitamin D deficiency, smoking, and low-dose synthetic estrogen birth control have also been posited as contributing influences.
Q: Are hormones a factor?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Perhaps. A significant portion of women are diagnosed shortly after pregnancy or during menopause – both times when the female body produces different levels of hormones than normal. The majority of these diagnoses happen between the ages of 45 and 50 in women, during menopause. This leads researchers to believe that estrogen and progesterone may have a protective effect in premenopausal women.
Q: Is RA treatable?
Marla Ahlgrimm: It is treatable but not curable. Certain drugs may slow the progression of the disease. Interestingly, men seem to respond better to the most common treatments than women, though the reasons aren’t fully understood.