Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a painful and chronic health condition caused by inflammation. It typically affects your joints but can also affect your blood vessels, eyes, heart, lungs and skin. Like all immune disorders, RA occurs due to your immune system mistakenly attacking its tissues. Learn more about this condition and how it can be affected by the weather.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms
The most common symptoms of this chronic health condition include:
- Joint stiffness that’s usually worse after periods of inactivity, such as when you wake up in the morning
- Swollen joints that feel tender or warm
- Weight loss
Symptoms tend to affect both parts of the body equally. It normally affects the small joints first, such as those in your fingers and toes.
Managing Your RA as Winter Shifts into Spring
Although it’s common to experience a difference in your RA symptoms with weather shifts, it doesn’t happen to everyone, and no two people experience the same types of effects due to weather. Spring tends to be a damp time of year with a lot of seasonal showers. The worsening of symptoms or the new symptoms that you’re dealing with at this time of year is often the result of a shift in barometric pressure. Your symptoms should stabilize as the weather becomes more predictable.
Summer to Fall and Fall to Winter
These seasonal changes can also cause a flare-up of symptoms. In fact, the shift to cooler weather in each season seems to make things worse for arthritis sufferers than the shift to warmer weather does. The more drastic the temperature change, the more likely you are to experience greater joint stiffness, fatigue, swollen joints and even difficulty controlling your body temperature. The longer you live with RA, the more you may feel certain that it’s going to rain soon because of how your body feels.
How to Lessen the Impact of Weather Shifts on Your RA Symptoms
Because RA can be fatiguing no matter what the weather, it’s especially important to get enough sleep during times of climate shifts. Try to establish a regular time for going to bed and waking up that allows you at least eight hours to rest. Even if you don’t have to get up as early on the weekends, try not to vary the sleep schedule too much as it can be hard to reset during the week.
If exercise isn’t already a part of your life, plan to add a range of motion and stretching exercises to help stay ahead of your symptoms. Additionally, manage the stress in your life the best you can. This might mean saying no to commitments or limiting time with people who drain you emotionally.
These are just a handful of suggestions for dealing with the seasonal pain of arthritis. We urge you to discuss all treatment options with your doctor and how specialized rheumatology care can help you get back to the life you love. At Arthritis Center of Lexington, we are currently accepting referrals for new patients.