Oral Contraceptives Linked to Arthritis Outcomes

Oral contraceptives (OCs) may have a notable impact on mood and disease activity in patients with arthritis, according to a new analysis published in Arthritis Care & Research.

Oral contraceptives (OCs) may have a notable impact on mood and disease activity in patients with arthritis, according to a new analysis published in Arthritis Care & Research.

A Germany-based team assessed a cohort of 273 females with early inflammatory arthritis ages 18 to 60. For over two years, the women self-reported data using the Rheumatoid Arthritis Impact of Disease Score (RAID), Rheumatoid Arthritis Disease Activity Index (RADAI), Profile of Mood and Discomfort (PROFAD), and Hannover Functional Assessment (FFbH). The questionnaires measured levels of pain, tender joints, emotional wellbeing,disease activity, and more associated with arthritis.

While none of the participantshad exposure to hormone replacement, their statuses with OCs differed:

  • 63% used OCs in the past
  • 19% were currently using OCs
  • 18% never used OCs

After adjusting scores for age, BMI, parity, smoking, and education, the researchers found an association between OC usage and arthritis activity. At the 12-month mark, those who were currently taking OCs or had taken them in past reported better scores across the board in RAID, RADAI, PROFAD, and FFbH when compared to the participants who had never taken them. Significantly better outcomes were especially observed in RAID scores.

Additional findings revealed that actual inflammatory markers were not linked to OC usage and glucocorticoids were used more among participants who had never taken OCs.

So what is the reason behind the relationship between OCs and arthritis?

“Protective effects may be induced via central nervous pathways rather than through the suppression of peripheral inflammation,” the authors considered.