Does Inflammatory Arthritis Worsen in the Winter?

hands around a warm cupCould your aches predict the weather? You may have heard that when it rains or is cold out, arthritis pain worsens. Is this true?

The truth is that little factual evidence exists to support this. In fact, when patients with rheumatoid arthritis were placed into a barometrically-controlled chamber, which simulates the change in air pressure, they didn’t notice a difference in joint pain.

What Is Inflammatory Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis and other forms of inflammatory arthritis develop when cells of the joint lining multiply and produce factors that result in painful swelling of joints. If left untreated, some forms of inflammatory arthritis may result in permanent destruction of cartilage and bone. The exact cause of inflammatory arthritis is not known, but recent studies have shown that cigarette smoking may put you at risk for the development of rheumatoid arthritis.

What Are the Symptoms?

  • Sharp or intermittent pain in the joints, ankle, back, hands, neck or wrist
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Joint stiffness, tenderness or swelling

What Should You Do if You Experience Joint Pain and Swelling?

There is strong evidence to support that early diagnosis and treatment prevents joint destruction and results in improved physical function. Early detection and treatment also lessens the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease and thinning of the bones.

If you experience joint pain and stiffness, especially symptoms that are worse when you first wake up, you should seek evaluation by a rheumatologist. Rheumatologists are specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of inflammatory diseases.

The rheumatologist will ask you questions about your symptoms and the effects they have on your ability to function. The doctor will examine your joints carefully, as well as perform a general examination to look for clues that might help make a more specific diagnosis. Laboratory testing may be performed to clarify the diagnosis. Once a diagnosis has been made, the rheumatologist can recommend treatments that decrease your pain and suppress the underlying issues that are causing joint damage.

Your arthritis shouldn’t be a sign of rain, so brighten up your day by discovering how to lessen your joint pain. Find a UMass Memorial rheumatologist here or call 855-UMASS-MD (855-862-7763).

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