Background and aims: The nature of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) following menopause has not been previously studied. The aim of this study was to characterize the effect of menopause on disease activity and identify possible modifiers of disease activity.
Methods: This was a retrospective study of women followed at the University of Chicago IBD Clinic. Disease activity was assessed using clinical scoring systems during the pre- and postmenstrual periods of subjects. Variables of interest included: history of smoking, use of oral contraceptives (OCP) prior to onset of menopause, and use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Results: Sixty-five women were included, 20 with ulcerative colitis and 45 with Crohn's disease. The median age of menopause was similar to historical controls. Twenty-three patients (35%) experienced active symptoms in the premenopausal time period and 25 patients (38%) had disease indices consistent with a flare within the first 2 yr after menopause (P > 0.05). There was no relation between those who had a pre- versus postmenstrual flare as a group (P > 0.05). However, there was a significant protective effect on disease activity with postmenopausal HRT use (hazard ratio [HR] 0.18, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.04-0.72). There was also a dose-response effect noted with an HR with longer duration of use (0.20, 0.07-0.65).
Conclusions: The likelihood of having a flare postmenopause is not different from having it premenopause. HRT, however, may provide a protective effect for disease activity in the postmenopausal period. The anti-inflammatory effects of estrogen may be the mechanism for this observation.