The body is a complex machine, with its different systems all working together but performing separate functions. Your musculoskeletal system, which includes your joints and your temporomandibular joint (TMJ), can be affected by many factors – including hormones.
Hormones are constantly at work in your body and can even play a role in certain diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA). And, conditions like RA can make TMJ pain worse.
The Link Between Hormones and Arthritis
Although arthritis seems unrelated to hormones, medical research has found that they may be very interconnected, especially when it comes to RA. Unlike osteoarthritis, RA is an autoimmune disease, meaning the immune system begins attacking healthy cells and tissue instead of foreign invaders. And for women, the symptoms of RA are closely correlated with hormonal changes that occur during menstrual cycles and menopause. Although there is still much more to learn about RA, studies have found:
- The hormones estrogen and progesterone appear to protect against RA symptoms when they are at their highest levels.
- Women report fewer RA symptoms during the latter part of the menstrual cycle, when estrogen and progesterone levels are at their peak.
- Pregnant women are far less likely to develop RA or experience RA flare-ups. Estrogen and progesterone levels soar during pregnancy.
- RA onset appears to peak for women between the ages of 45 and 49. This is commonly a period of hormonal decline before menopause begins, known as perimenopause.
Women are two to four times more likely to develop RA than men, so it’s possible that the hormone fluctuations trigger the onset of the condition in some people, and the hormonal changes that occur throughout life can either protect against symptoms or make them worse. Other factors, such as genetics, environment, smoking, and alcohol use may also increase a person’s risk of developing RA – but the hormonal link helps explain why symptoms appear to come and go at certain times for women.
What This Means for TMD
Knowing that women’s hormones affect RA, we can assume that for some women, hormones will also affect their temporomandibular joint (TMD) symptoms. This is because the TMJ is a joint like any other joint in the body, so the inflammation and pain from RA can affect it as well. For women who have RA and TMD, it can help them understand why their symptoms may get worse at certain times of the month or times in their lives.
If you’re having joint pain or any symptoms of RA, it’s important to see your doctor to get testing and treatment for this condition. Symptoms often include joint stiffness, warmth, tenderness, and may include other symptoms such as fatigue and fever.
In addition to your doctor’s care, the team at MedCenter TMJ can evaluate your orofacial pain and help you find relief for TMD symptoms. If you have TMJ pain or other symptoms of TMD, please contact our office to schedule an appointment. Don’t let TMD hold you back!