Weather and How it Can Affect Your Health
Author: Thomas C. Weiss
Contact : Disabled World
Published: 2014-11-24 - (Updated: 2018-10-10)
Does the weather actually affect a person with arthritis for example? If it does, how does it affect them? The fact is there has not been a great amount of research into the subject.
The year 1961 found famous arthritis specialist J. Hollander conducting a study in which he built a climate chamber and demonstrated that high humidity combined with low barometric pressure were associated with an increase in joint pain and stiffness. Neither of these weather factors alone appeared to influence a person's joint symptoms. The study received a certain amount of criticism due to the limited number of people who were evaluated. The theory of the study is that inflamed joints swell as the barometric pressure drops. The swelling irritates the nerves around the joints that sense pain, causing more stiffness.
Does this mean people with arthritis should pick up and move to an area that is dry? No, it does not. Relocating to a different climate does not seem to make a difference over time. Scientific studies have shown that no matter where people live, their bodies appear to establish a new equilibrium to the local climate. Due to this, changes in the weather affect arthritis symptoms in the say way despite the actual overall average weather. Moving simply because of arthritis is not likely to be helpful in the long run. There are; for example, plenty of very busy rheumatologists in the state of Arizona.
Which leaves a question: If a person does experience joint pain and stiffness with changing weather, how harmful is it? It is important to appreciate that only joint symptoms such as stiffness and pain are influenced by weather. There is no evidence that weather changes contribute to actual joint damage. In addition, weather changes have not been related to whether or not a person initially develops arthritis.
Specific Health Conditions
There are certain conditions that are plainly influenced by weather. Doctors work to inform people with these conditions that they should do their best to avoid aggravating these conditions by limiting their exposure to certain weather conditions. Some of these conditions include the following.
The risk of muscle cramping increases when an exercise activity is pursued without an adequate warm-up. It is particularly true in environments that are cold. It is very important; therefore, to do warm-up stretches and get your muscles ready to work for you before you begin.
Cold weather may also affect people with certain lung diseases. Asthma; for example, may be triggered in some people by physical activity in cold weather.
Rheumatoid lung disease, caused by the same immune response that affects the joints of people with rheumatoid arthritis, is characterized by shortness of breath, chest pain, cough and fever. For people with rheumatoid lung disease, winter air may aggravate issues with breathing.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus:
Lupus is a potentially serious form of illness that may cause inflammation in a number of internal organs, to include a person's joints. Lupus can have a tendency to be activated by exposure to sunlight, a feature referred to as, 'photosensitivity.' Since ultraviolet light can trigger and worsen flare-ups of lupus that may involve a person's skin or joints and other organs, people with lupus should avoid exposure to the sun. Sunscreens and clothes that cover the extremities are important.
Osteoporosis involves bones which become porous and more prone to fracture and might not itself worsen with cold. Icy steps and walkways; however, can present a particular danger to people with fragile bones. Slipping and falling can cause painful fractures that may be slow to heal, or even be disabling. If you have osteoporosis it is important to take measures to reduce your risk of falling. Make sure you have handrails on your porch, keep your sidewalks free of ice and snow and avoid wearing shoes with slippery soles. If you take medications that affect your balance or stability, ask your doctor about the possibility of changing medications, or at least the timing of medications, so that they are less-likely to interfere with your daytime activities.
Raynaud's phenomenon can be associated with several conditions that feature arthritis, to include rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, mixed connective tissue disease, lupus, polymyositis and others. Raynaud's phenomenon is a conditions that results in the discoloration of the person's fingers or toes when they are exposed to changes in temperature or emotional events. Skin discoloration happens because a spasm of the person's blood vessels results in a diminished blood supply. Initially, the person's digits turn white because of diminished blood supply. The digits then turn blue because of prolonged lack of oxygen. The blood vessels re-open, causing a local flushing phenomenon which turns the person's fingers or toes red. The 3-phase color sequence, which occurs most often after exposure to cold temperature, is characteristic of Raynaud's phenomenon. People with Raynaud's phenomenon should minimize their exposure to extremes of temperature, especially cold, as well as rapid changes in temperature. They may also benefit by living in environments that are warmer.
Things that Help
If you have difficulties with breathing try a face mask when you need to go out in the cold. The masks, which can be found at a number of outdoor and sporting goods stores, cover your mouth and use the heat from your own breathing to warm air before it enters your lungs.
If you are a person with arthritis whose pain symptoms are influenced by the weather there are some things you can do as well. Some of the things you can do include the following:
- Avoid These: Avoid alcohol, nicotine and caffeine because they have a drying effect on cartilage.
- Supplements: Ask your doctor about arthritis supplements that can prevent nutrient deficiencies leading to arthritis pain.
- Sleep: Get plenty of sleep, it restores your energy to you can better manage pain. It also rests your joints to reduce swelling and pain.
- Layer Clothing: Wear multiple layers of clothing to protect your body tissues and to minimize rapid temperature changes between indoor and outdoor environments.
- Heating/Cooling: Take advantage of heading pads and warm baths to ease pain. Ice packs reduce swelling and inflammation. Alternate between heat and ice to benefit from both.
- Diet: Eat a balanced and healthy diet to boost your immune system, promote healing and fight off arthritis. Eat plenty of vegetables, fruit, unsalted nuts, seeds, grains and fish.
- Hydration: Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, juice and other liquids. Water is a good replacement therapy that helps to flush out toxins that can cause pain in joints with arthritis.
- Spoil Yourself: Listen to your favorite music, it helps to reduce pain and depression. A therapeutic massage can reduce the symptoms you experience as well as your mood. A paraffin wax treatment warms and softens your hands.
- Keep a Pain Diary: Write about the level of pain you experience at different times, how you are feeling, as well as what activities you can and cannot do. Keep a record of your medications and your diet. Bring the diary to your doctor's visits.
- Keep Exercising: Cold weather may promote inactivity, something that also causes joints to stiffen. Try walking at your local mall, or other low-impact activities such as dancing or swimming. Five to ten minutes of gentle stretching exercises each morning will help to relax stiff muscles.
Senors are more susceptible to cold weather, so they should set their thermostats above 65 degrees. People who lower their thermostats to reduce heating bills risk developing hypothermia, a potentially fatal condition in which a person's body temperature drops dangerously low. Others at risk include people who take certain medications, lack appropriate nutrition, drink alcohol, or who have conditions such as stroke, Alzheimer's disease, arthritis or Parkinson's disease.
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