Does Menopause Affect RA?
“I’ve been meaning to call you,” my doctor said as she opened my file.
What? Call me? She never calls me, unless I call her first. What possible reason could she have to call me?? Why did I come in today?? I DON’T WANNA KNOW!!!
A-hem. I can’t be the only one who reacts like that when hearing that your doctor had plans to call you, can I?
She then told me that the blood test we had done to check my menopausal-or-not status had come back. And it’s official. I am in menopause.
This was no surprise. My body had already told me.
Sometime in late November or early December, someone flipped a switch and I started feeling different in a number of ways. Yes, including hot flashes, which are more like bake flashes. It feels like someone turned up the temperature on my insides several times in the middle of the night, but never caused me to sweat. Very strange. But these weren’t the only symptoms and more about that in a bit.
I did a bit of research on menopause and RA (because research is my big name). It appears that early menopause is associated with developing RA. I didn’t know this. Menopause itself may be associated with an increase in symptoms in some women there doesn’t seem to be any clear evidence that it positively or negatively affects the disease.
Sometimes I wonder whether the lack of clear evidence about an awful lot of things related to RA is simply because no one has bought them important enough to study. Such as the effects of menopause on RA, whether diet can control the disease, rather than symptoms of RA. Y;know. Stuff that’s important for people who live with RA.
But I digress.
What’s really interesting to me (perhaps less whether people) is that this menopause appears to have had a beneficial effect on my disease. Sure, it’s early days yet, what with being just a little over two months into it, but some intriguing things have been happening.
Take the side effects from the biologic medication I take for my RA. I’ve been a side effect magnet for the past 10 years, having a plethora of strange side effects. So many, in fact, that the second part ofYour Life with RA dedicated to managing side effects has a personal story for each chapter. Some of these side effects had gotten worse in the last six months of 2015, and brought new friends to boot. Around the early part of December, many of them went away.
Take another one, just for fun. Last summer, I noticed I was starting to react differently to my biologic. It didn’t seem to work quite as well as it had in the past. I spent some time in denial — ain’t just a river in Egypt, y’know — but then started thinking about it. At my last appointment with my rheumatologist, I even raised the topic of perhaps adding methotrexate to my treatment regimen, and she suggested changing the biologic entirely. And then I went home and stuck my head in the sand for some time.
In early December, just when I decided to do something about it the next time I saw my doctor, things changed. All of a sudden, I reacted much better to the biologic. Then I didn’t take it for a month because of that accursed cold I had, and instead of feeling the lack of the drug, I was fine for a really long time. I’ve had a couple of shots now where instead of being completely wiped afterwards — as I have in the last 10 years — I feel energized.
And it’s not just my biologic. How I react to my blood pressure medication has changed, as well. I went for a long time without it, something I haven’t been able to do for about a decade, and am now back on a quarter of the dose that I used to take. And my blood pressure is 110/70.
My GP tells me that landscape has changed completely, and it is quite normal for menopause to affect how you respond to medication. Basically, it seems like everything I used to know, I’ll now have to relearn while my body figures out what this new state of being means.
There is one caveat to applying my experience to someone else who lives with RA. I actually have juvenile arthritis. My type is very similar to RA, more or less a poster child for why it used to be called juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, which is why I often consider myself to have RA.
This might also play a role in what’s been going on. My JA went from being present and annoying in two joints to going supersonic when I hit puberty. So based on this very early evidence, could it be that just as the ignition of those hormones when I was 12 caused the disease to burn out of control, the cessation of some of those hormones may have the opposite effect at menopause?
Time will tell.
Bottom line is that I am no longer maiden or mother, I have entered the crone stage. The one where I become a dried-up husk and the relevant to much of our culture. No wonder I’ve gotten really obsessed with owls in the last couple of years.
I have no intention of becoming husky or irrelevant, though. This feels very much like a new beginning, one in which I am free of so much that’s been dragging me down. I can’t wait to start this new adventure.
If I am to be a crone, I’m going to be a very happy one!