Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk Lower for Women on The Pill, says Study

rheumatoid arthritisResearchers behind a new study in Sweden claim that women taking the pill long-term are significantly less likely to develop a type of arthritis in their later years.

Scientists in the study, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, analysed around 7,000 women in Sweden and found that those who had taken the contraceptive pill in the past were 13% less likely to suffer with rheumatoid arthritis.

This particular type of arthritis affects an estimated 400,000 people in Britain and occurs when the body’s immune system starts attacking the body’s own tissues and causes inflammation, usually in multiple joints.

Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis treatment can consist of the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as aspirin, celecoxib, diclofenac, ibuprofen, or naproxen.

Women are found to be around two to three times more at risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis than men.

However, the Swedish study discovered for those women that had consistently been taking the pill for at least 7 years – the average timeframe the women had taken it for – the risk of having the arthritis had now dropped by nearly a fifth (19%).

Experts think that the progesterone hormone contained in the Pill – which prevents pregnancy – is also responsible for the decreasing arthritis risk, having an anti-inflammatory effect.

Detailing their findings in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases journal, they commented: “In this large population-based case-control study of incident rheumatoid arthritis, with careful matching between cases and controls and extensive exposure information, we found that women who had ever used oral contraceptives had a significantly decreased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.”

The combined oral contraceptive pill is prescribed to around 3.5million women in the UK, with those taking it from a young age believed to have a reduced risk of cancers later in life, such as bowel, ovarian and womb cancer.

Hormonal methods of birth control use hormones to regulate or prevent ovulation and thus, prevent the woman from falling pregnant.

Combined oral contraceptives (aka ‘the pill’). Combined oral contraceptive pills (COCs) contain different combinations of the synthetic estrogens and progestins and work to interfere with ovulation. COC pills are not suitable for women who smoke tobacco and are over the age of 35, or for those with high blood pressure (hypertension), a history of blood clots, or a history of breast, liver, or endometrial cancer.

Examples of COCs: Marvelon, Yasmin

Progestin-only pills (POPs) or Mini Pills. Progestin-only pills may interfere with ovulation or sperm function. POPs thicken the cervical mucus, making it extremely hard for sperm to swim into the uterus or to get into the fallopian tube. These types of contraceptive pills are not thought to increase the risk of blood clots and are suitable for women breast feeding or who smoke tobacco.

Examples of POPs: Cerazette

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