Oral Contraceptives Linked to Decreased Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms

Birth control use not found to impact disease progression.

Birth control use not found to impact disease progression.

Rheumatoid arthritis affects nearly 1.3 million people in the United States and of those 1.3 million, 75% of them are women. But for those approximately 975,000 women with rheumatoid arthritis, relief may potentially come from a pill that is all too familiar: oral contraceptives.

According to a recent study conducted in Germany, the use of oral contraceptives in women with rheumatoid arthritis was associated with a decrease in the severity of symptoms. These results were linked to those who used oral contraceptives in the past or are currently using them.

No association between length of time on the oral contraceptives and decreased side effects from rheumatoid arthritis were found in the study.

While the findings are certainly of importance to patients and physicians, the study authors warn that the results should be taken with caution. The findings are a result of patient self-assessment and are not the result of physician analysis.

However, standardized measurements for the side effects associated with rheumatoid arthritis were used to determine the severity of the condition in patients involved in the study.

Researchers evaluated 273 women with rheumatoid arthritis aged between 18 and 60 years. The researchers found that 18% had never used birth control, 63% used it in the past, and 19% were currently using birth control.

The study also found that those currently using birth control pills were younger than those who either had never used it or had used it in the past.

Of the patients studied, those that had indicated current or past usage of oral contraceptives also indicated a decrease in the severity of their rheumatoid arthritis symptoms compared with those who had never taken oral contraceptives. However, the progression of the disease was not affected by birth control use, according to the study.

While patients may begin to seek out oral contraceptives to treat their rheumatoid arthritis as a result of the study’s findings, this would be a mistake as the use of oral contraceptives can increase the risk of blood clots in certain patients with inflammatory arthritis. Additionally, the use of oral contraceptives should never be considered as proper treatment for inflammatory arthritis.

“This association needs to be confirmed in further studies before any clinical conclusion can be drawn,” the study authors wrote.