So… does weather affect arthritis? The surprising answer next…
Weather may… or may not affect arthritis symptoms
One of the most controversial topics in arthritis is this… Does weather affect symptoms? Well maybe we have an answer to this perplexing issue. Nancy Walsh writing in her blog on Medscape reported on a Dutch study of 712 survey participants who were residents of Germany, Italy, U.K., the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden… a variety of climates.
Patients’ mean age was 73 years, 72% were women, and 67% considered themselves to be “weather sensitive.”
When the researchers compared the weather-sensitive patients with those who didn’t consider themselves sensitive, they found that women, the less educated, and more anxious and depressed patients were more often sensitive.
Weather-sensitive individuals also had less of a sense of mastery over their lives.
Among the 469 individuals who considered themselves weather sensitive, almost 40% said damp and rainy conditions worsened their symptoms, 30% said only cold bothered them, and 5% said hot weather was worse for their pain. Small numbers reported increased pain with both hot and cold weather, or to rain and cold and heat.
Interestingly, the percentage of patients who were weather sensitive was highest in warm, dry climates like Spain and Italy (77%) and lowest in the cold, wet climate of Sweden (57%). In addition, residents of warm, dry climates reported more intense joint pain than those in cold, wet climates.
Possible explanations suggested by Erik Timmermans, the lead author, included the biologic:
“Changes in temperature and humidity may influence the expansion and contraction of different tissues in the affected joint, which may elicit a pain response. In addition, low temperatures may increase the viscosity of synovial fluid, thereby making joints stiffer and perhaps more sensitive to the pain of mechanical stresses.”
The exposure theory:
“The climates in both Mediterranean countries are warmer compared to the climate in Sweden. As a result, older people with osteoarthritis in Italy and Spain may be more often outside compared to those in Sweden…. As a consequence, they may be more aware of the effect of weather on their pain and are more likely to report weather sensitivity.”
And the mind:
“The disease course of osteoarthritis is often characterized by a low level or absence of symptoms with periods of flare-up or exacerbation. The uncertainty about the recurrence of pain may lead to anxiety in people with osteoarthritis and this might encourage the desire to have an explanation for the worsening of their pain.”
In any case, “the common belief that joint pain in osteoarthritis becomes worse by living in a cold and damp climate is not supported by our results,” they stated.
They concluded that clinicians’ appreciation of older patients’ potential weather sensitivity — wherever they live — may be key. “Early treatment of weather-sensitive individuals with osteoarthritis using cognitive and psychological interventions may reduce suffering and may help them to maintain a functionally effective lifestyle,” they concluded.
Comment: So there it is… your answer.