Does Warm Weather Trigger Your Psoriatic Arthritis?
This title feels like a loaded question if ever there was one. A few years back, I was visiting with a new doctor. As he reviewed my history, he wanted to discuss my psoriatic arthritis symptoms.
He was the first doctor to ever ask me if the weather impacted my symptoms. Funnily enough, he was also the last doctor to ask me.
The answer isn't so simple
From then on, I’ve been left wondering, can warm weather trigger psoriatic arthritis? My answer to this question is both yes and no. Glad we cleared that up!
Rather, the answer isn’t so simple. There is such a spectrum for weather - hot, warm, humid, cold, or dry. I didn’t arrive at this conclusion easily.
The impact of a cool day
I told my new doctor that I actually feel better when the air is cooler or dryer. Living in Florida, we usually experience weather that ranges from hot and muggy to hotter and muggier. For me, it’s like a breath of fresh air to receive a few days with cool dry air.
On a cool day, the pain in the bottom of my feet disappears for a few hours and my hands don’t feel stiff or swollen.
Thriving in the winter
This doctor knew I lived up north and was curious how I handled those northern winters. My answers were similar. For the most part, I thrived. Even during the worst part of my flare, I did so much better in a northern cold than a southern cool.
Here's where I left feeling like an oddball. He responded with, “That’s so interesting,” and added, “My other patients do best in the heat and humidity.” And then he said, “Maybe you aren’t meant to live in Florida?”
It’s as if he was reading my mind. I want nothing more than to live up north again. However, this conversation also left me wondering why I was so different.
Why was I so different?
Not long after that conversation took place, I was at a health conference up north. When meeting a fellow friend who also lived with PsA, a blast of heat and humidity whacked me in the face. The look upon my face from the blast gave my confusion away. She said the heat and humidity help her not hurt as bad.
Then, with a quizzical look upon her face, she asked, “Wait, heat and humidity don’t help you?” I explained she is now the second person to ask me this. I don’t know why I do better in cold, cool, or dry weather, but I do.
Since then, I’ve met other people like me. But for a while, I was growing concerned as to why I always feel a decline in health during the warmest, most humid months. The most simple answer is it is my biology.
Having an immune-mediated inflammatory condition isn’t that unique, but genetic makeup is. For some, going outside less during the cold months means they aren’t getting adequate amounts of vitamin D or exercise. These are two catalysts for psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis to flare. They are also catalysts for other immune-mediated conditions to flare, as well.
For those like myself who are chronically dehydrated for a myriad of reasons. We may also go outside less during the very hot months, which means less vitamin D and less activity.
Activity helps combat inflammation in the body, and so does having a decent vitamin D level. I struggle with that pesky level coming back low almost every time a doctor draws labs.
Is the grass greener?
For some people, a decrease in barometric pressure can make the fluid in their joints feel heavy. Similarly, those in cooler weather saying they have thicker blood may be onto something. Their joint fluid may feel heavier and therefore a change in the weather can make joints feel stiff and achy, or worse.
The best thing you can do in cooler temps is to keep your joints warm and stretched. I think I do that automatically because I love to dress in layers and move outside as much as possible. This is a perfect representation of the grass always being greener on the other side, eh?
I would love to see a serious study on this one day. How wonderful would it be if we could prove a certain climate condition could help control symptoms of a disease? Until then, I will just continue to ask people I meet with psoriatic arthritis, “Does warm weather trigger your symptoms?”
Do you have a sleep disorder (eg. insomnia, sleep apnea, RLS) in addition to your PsA?