Rheumatoid Arthritis Tougher on Women?

Study: Among Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients, Women Report More Severe Symptoms, Pain, and Fatigue

By Miranda Hitti
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 14, 2009 -- Rheumatoid arthritis may not only be more common in women than men, it may also take a tougher toll on women, a new study shows.

The study, published online in Arthritis Research & Therapy, included about 6,000 patients in 25 countries, including the U.S.

The patients completed surveys about their pain, fatigue, swollen joints, and rheumatoid arthritis treatment.

Women reported more severe rheumatoid arthritis symptoms than men, although there weren't major gender differences in rheumatoid arthritis treatment. Women were also less likely to be in remission for their rheumatoid arthritis; 30% of the men were in remission, compared to about 17% of the women.

The reason for the gender gap isn't clear. But the researchers -- who included Tuulikki Sokka, MD, PhD, of Jyvasyla Central Hospital in Finland -- have a theory.

Sokka's team writes that "women are not as physically strong as men," and that the difference in size and strength between men and women may mean that a disease like rheumatoid arthritis "may be more harmful to a woman than a man."

SOURCES: Sokka, T. Arthritis Research & Therapy, Jan. 13, 2009; online edition. News release, BioMed Central.

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