Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune condition, where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the cells lining joints.
It can make joints feel stiff, swollen and painful.
You’re more likely to develop the condition if you’re female, or have a family history of rheumatoid arthritis.
But, scientists have now revealed that joint pain is likely to be worse in women that have gone through the menopause.
Menopause had a “significant impact” on the level and rate of decline in women with rheumatoid arthritis, said scientists from the US.
They analysed more than 8,000 rheumatoid arthritis patients, and found the pre-menopausal women had a slower physical decline than post-menopausal women.
Therefore, women that had gone through the menopause suffered worse joint pain, and stiffer joints.
But, the exact reason why this is the case – or what women can do to prevent joints becoming increasingly painful – isn’t yet known, the scientists said.
“Further study is needed as to why women with rheumatoid arthritis are suffering a greater decline in function after menopause,” said lead author of the research, Elizabeth Mollard.
“Not only is this decline causing suffering for women, it is costly to both individuals and the healthcare system as a whole.
“Research is specifically needed on the mechanism connecting these variables with the eventual goal of identifying interventions that can maintain or improve function in postmenopausal women with rheumatoid arthritis.”
During pregnancy, womens’ rheumatoid arthritis symptoms appear to decrease. But, symptoms get worse after giving birth, previous research has claimed.
Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects the hands, feet and wrists, according to the NHS.
Flare-ups can be difficult to predict, but symptoms can be reduced with some treatments.
Supportive therapies can help patients remain mobile, and help them to overcome joint pain on a daily basis, it said.
It’s also important to find the right balance between exercise and rest.