Is rheumatoid arthritis (RA) more common in women or men?

Updated: Feb 07, 2020
  • Author: Howard R Smith, MD; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
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Answer

Women are affected by RA approximately 3 times more often than men are, [15, 16] but sex differences diminish in older age groups. [15] In investigating whether the higher rate of RA among women could be linked to certain reproductive risk factors, a study from Denmark found that the rate of RA was higher in women who had given birth to just 1 child than in women who had delivered 2 or 3 offspring. [23] However, the rate was not increased in women who were nulliparous or who had a history of lost pregnancies.

Time elapsed since pregnancy is also significant. In the 1- to 5-year postpartum period, a decreased risk for RA has been recognized, even in those with higher-risk HLA markers. [24]

The Danish study also found a higher risk of RA among women with a history of preeclampsia, hyperemesis during pregnancy, or gestational hypertension. [23] In the authors’ view, this portion of the data suggested that a reduced immune adaptability to pregnancy may exist in women who are predisposed to the development of RA or that there may be a link between fetal microchimerism (in which fetal cells are present in the maternal circulation) and RA. [23]


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