Many doctors have reported hearing complaints from arthritis patients about worsening joint symptoms during changes in the weather. However, research hasn’t yet clearly explained a link between weather and an increase in arthritis symptoms.
Although the connection is not fully understood, there is some evidence that changes in the weather influence symptoms in certain patients, Dr. William C. Shiel, Jr. writes in MedicineNet.com
. It is not true of all arthritis patients, and it is also not predictable what kind of weather changes may cause problems for patients.
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Dr. Shiel notes that he has seen patients who complain about increased symptoms during rainy weather and those who have more symptoms in warm, clear weather. In situations such as these, doctors evaluate each patient according to their particular arthritis conditions and how specific weather conditions affect them personally. Lifestyle changes and medication adjustments can then be made according to the influence the different weather patterns have on each particular patient.
Weather conditions have been linked to other health conditions, such as dark, gloomy seasons affecting depression. Rheumatic conditions, which affect the immune system and are associated with arthritis, can be aggravated by weather conditions, according to Shiel. Ice packs can relieve inflammation from arthritis and hot packs or showers help relax the muscles around the joints.
Only joint symptoms, such as pain and stiffness, have been associated with changes in weather conditions, Shiel points out. There is no evidence that the weather causes joint damage or is responsible for the development of arthritis.
A 1961 study by Dr. J. Hollander, an arthritis specialist, suggested that drops in barometric pressure cause inflamed joints, which then irritate nerves around the joints and result in symptoms. The study, however, only evaluated 12 patients.
Barometric pressure is the weight of the atmosphere around us. Some doctors agree there is something to the theory that low barometric pressure just before bad weather doesn’t push so much against the body, so tissues begin to expand, according to WebMD
. As they expand, they put more pressure on the joints.
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The nerves become more sensitized, and this has been found to cause more inflammation in people who suffer from chronic pain. Although some arthritis patients complain that weather conditions such as damp or rainy weather worsen their symptoms, it could be the barometric pressure that causes the problems, according to WebMD.
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