Women more vulnerable to rheumatoid arthritis

January 14th, 2009 - 4:06 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Jan 14 (IANS) Women appear to be more vulnerable to rheumatoid arthritis than men, according to the latest research.Tuulikki Sokka from the Jyvaskyla Central Hospital, Finland, along with members of the QUEST rheumatoid arthritis (RA) programme, explored links between gender and disease activity measures, in more than 6,000 RA patients from 70 sites in 25 countries.

“Generally, women report more severe symptoms, greater disability, and often have higher work disability rates than men,” she said.

The demographic characteristics of the group the authors studied were typical of an RA cohort; 79 percent were female, more than 90 percent were Caucasians and the mean age was 57 years.

The patients were evaluated by a doctor and completed a self-report about their own condition. Women had higher scores (indicating poorer status) than men in all of the key measures, the gender gap being widest in the self-reported measures.

“Obvious differences between genders exist in the prevalence, age at onset, and level of production of harmful arthritis autoantibodies. Furthermore, women report more symptoms and poor scores on most questionnaires, including scores for pain, depression, and other health-related items,” said Sokka.

However, the authors do speculate that most of gender differences may originate from the measures of disease activity rather than from the RA disease activity itself.

Sokka said: “Women have less strength than men, which has as much of a major effect in the functional status of patients with RA as it does in the healthy population.”

In fact, the gender differences in musculoskeletal performance remain even among the fittest individuals - female and male athletes still compete separately, said a Jyvaskyla release.

Given that woman is the “weaker vessel” concerning musculoskeletal size and strength and her baseline values are lower than men’s, the same burden of a musculoskeletal disease may appear to be more harmful to a woman than to a man.

These findings were published in the open access journal Arthritis Research and Therapy.

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