Hot stuff

When it comes to the weather and your AS, do you sometimes feel like a human weathervane? Are you only happy when it rains? Maybe you’re walking on sunshine; prefer a heat wave – or even a hazy shade of winter?

Putting the weather songs to one side for a minute, This AS Life gets its rain boots out, pops on its sunglasses and pokes its umbrella into the interesting world of weather and rheumatic disease.

Seasons in the sun

If one French survey is anything to go by, summer is the best season for AS symptoms, especially compared with winter.2 Seasons have been shown to play their part in other rheumatic diseases too, although the best time of year would seem to depend on the study you read – or perhaps the part of the planet you live on.3-5

In fact, when it comes to geography, it would seem day-to-day fluctuations in your local weather count more than the climate of the country you live in.1 To the surprise of the authors of one international study, people who lived in sunny Spain or Italy were more likely to say they were sensitive to changes in the weather than those in colder, wetter Sweden. 1

I can't stand the rain

If weather changes matter, does the type of weather matter too? In AS, lower temperatures have also been linked to poorer symptoms too, as well as higher wind speeds! 2

But is the weather actually affecting joints – or is it just having an effect on how bad people feel on certain days? For many weather studies, patients fill in surveys about how bad their condition is – so-called ‘subjective’ measurements. These are important, but different to ‘objective’ measurements (like counting tender joints) that doctors can measure independently of how patients are feeling.

 

"Most agree the weather plays its part; but no-one agrees how the weather affects their condition and, more importantly, why?"

Don't blame it on the weatherman

So if weather is a direct cause, what’s the effect? Here, like lots of the research out there, opinions differ. Cold conditions and changes in humidity, so one theory goes, change how much joints expand or contract – which might, in turn, effect how much pain a person feels.6 Another theory goes that low temperatures make the fluid in joints thicker, so they’re stiffer and more sensitive to pain.6

A third, simpler theory is that warm, sunny weather just makes people feel happier – and feel less pain – than on grey or cold days.6 At least in one study of people with AS, the better pain measures reported in warm, summer weather corresponded with better quality of life scores too.2

Here comes the sun

So there’s data out there linking weather and AS, even if there’s sometimes disagreement too. At the end of the day, it’s up to you – and your healthcare provider – what you feel is important and what’s not. After all, there’s not a great deal we can do about the weather. If the data is to believed, people with AS, like everyone else, have to make sure not to get too cold, humid or windswept.2

If, like lots of people, you think your AS is sensitive to the weather then put it to the test. The free MyDocHub Health Flare Tracker (available for Android or Apple phones) helps you keep a diary of your symptoms and the weather too. Whether it’s November rain or the heat that affects your AS, maybe this is the first step in putting you – and not the weather – more in the driving seat.

This article was written by one of the resident experts at ThisASLife.com. A social site, helping the whole AS community to: Learn. Share. Inspire. Discuss.

 

1. Timmermans EJ et al. BMC Musculoskelet Disord 2014; 15:66.
3. Challier B et al. Clin Exp Rheumatol 2001; 19:277–281.
4. Hawley DJ et al. J Rheumatol 2001; 28:1900–1909.
5. Iikuru N et al. Rheumtaol 2007; 46:846–848.
6. Rozin A et al. Clin Exp Rheumatol 2003; 21:161– 69.
11. Jamison RN et al. Pain 1995; 61:309–315.

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