Why Is Arthritis More Common In Women?

Arthritis is more common in women than it is in men. Discover why women are more susceptible to the arthritic conditions.

Of the almost 27 million Americans with osteoarthritis, about 60 percent of them are women—and the risk of osteoarthritis shifts with age. Until age 55, more men are affected, but after age 55, the number of women with the condition surpasses the number of men. Gender also determines which joints tend to be affected by osteoarthritis. It is more common for men to experience arthritis in their hips. In women, arthritis tends to affect the hands or knees.

Thumb arthritis is more common in women, and can be very disabling. Women are more susceptible to thumb arthritis than men for a number of reasons:

  • Genetics. Osteoarthritis seems to run in families, and researchers have found specific genetic links among women for hand and knee osteoarthritis.
  • Hormones. Research suggests that female hormones have an effect on the cushioning cartilage that sits between the bones of the joints to allow smooth joint movement. Although the female hormone estrogen protects cartilage from inflammation, women lose that protection after menopause when estrogen levels drop.
  • Joint stability. Women’s joints are more lax than men’s—the bones move around more and are less stable within the joint. When joints have less stability, they are more prone to injury, and injuries can lead to arthritis.

When the bones  move to the extremes of the joint they are going beyond the point that the joint is meant to move. This damages the cartilage, and can trigger the development of arthritis.

Some people cope with the pain of arthritis for years because they don’t realize that there are treatments that can help. It is important to talk with your doctor about your level of pain and how often you experience it. Arthritis progresses over time, but we have treatments that can make this progression less painful for our patients.

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