Cold weather and stiff joints
Winter is a pain for those of us who suffer from RA -- literally! I can feel the cold weather in my joints though, some people find this expression so crazy but it's very true. Especially when I wake up in the morning on cold days, my joints feel extra stiff and achy. The cold weather makes it tougher for us to get up in the morning, taking longer than usual. I believe this happens, because when we're cold, we tend to curl up, especially at night, in the morning resulting is us being stiff and in pain. I searched around the Internet to see if there was any research as to why this may happen, there was hardly anything, but I'll share with you what I found.
This statement, taken from a research study done at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) explains why us RAers may be able to feel a change in weather. "As the weather changes, so can the pressure in your joints. If you think of the tissues surrounding the joint as a balloon, Gourley explains, the balloon around the joint will expand a little when air pressure is low. The expanding tissues put pressure on the joint. People can actually feel changes in air pressure in their joints, which is why some people say they can predict the weather by the pain in their joints."
To help prevent us curling up, and getting stiff joints, it's important to stay warm. When going out, dress in layers, warm your car up before getting into it, and at night use an electric blanket or warm clothes and blankets in a dryer before using them. Drinking warm liquids, and keep your joints moving can also help prevent them from getting stiff. During the day, I'll get up and just walk around my apartment, and keep repositioning myself on the couch so I'm never in the same position too long.
The cold temperature associated with winter can not only affect Rhuematoid Arthritis, but many other illnesses as well. Raynaud’s disease is a condition in which the blood vessels quickly narrow, reducing the flow of blood and causing the skin on the fingers, toes and even the nose to temporarily turn white, then bluish. It's important for those with Raynaud's to wear warm socks, and warm mittens instead of gloves, keeping your extremities warm. Sjögren’s syndrome is another illness affected. With Sjögren’s the immune system attacks the body’s moisture-producing glands, leading to dryness of the eyes, mouth and other tissues. Cool, dry weather can exacerbate the situation. Those with this condition, need to add moisture back to the air and body to help. Using a humidifier to raise the humidity level in your home and use lotions after bathing to keep skin moist. Use artificial tears for dry eyes and keep a water bottle on hand to sip to relieve dry mouth. Be careful about using mouthwashes with alcohol or over-the-counter cold remedies, either of which can worsen dryness. Breathing problems such as Asthma, can also cause difficulty with breathing.
It's important that if you experience any symptoms to discuss them with your doctor. Keep warm keep moving and be very careful when walking on icy grounds. Wishing all a warm, pain-free winter!