Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a very uncomfortable disease. A condition in which the body suffers from pain in the joints and other parts, its symptoms often appear at random times… but is it really random? How can the weather – more specifically the Barometric Pressure (BP) – have an effect on this disease? We will explain how are this two seemingly unrelated topics connected and how can you help with this symptoms, but first, let’s see what is really rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects the immune system. Our immune system is tasked with protecting our health by attacking foreign substances, bacteria, and viruses. But this is not the same for people with RA because this condition forces the immune system to attack the joints, creating inflammation that in turn makes the tissue that connects the inside of joints (synovium) to thicken, resulting in swelling and pain. If said inflammation is not treated properly and on time, it can damage the elastic tissue that covers the ends of bones in a joint, called cartilage. It may as well affect the bones themselves
Barometric Pressure, also known as atmospheric pressure, is the force exerted by the atmosphere at a given point.
Barometric pressure is closely approximated by the weight of air above the measurement point of the hydrostatic pressure. A rise in pressure is usually accompanied by an improvement in the weather, while the falling of said pressure may result in more inclement weather. In the case of BA, it will also vary with altitude and moisture.
How are they related?
How are weather and joints related? Lower air pressure in the environment pushes less against the body, thus allowing tissues to expand. This expanded tissues can put pressure on joints and cause pain, especially for people suffering from RA. This is due because Arthritis affects everything that’s within the joint, and this includes the lining and ligaments inside of them. All those tissues have nerve endings, and this nerves can feel changes in the weather. This may result not only in tightness, but also stiffness, some discomfort and, of course, pain.
What do the experts say?
A number of articles and studies have been made about the issue, with no particular consensus being achieved. The Arthritis Foundation, for instance, published a study in 2007 that revealed that every 10-degree drop in temperature incremented pain in patients with RA. This study also revealed that low temperatures, low barometric pressure and even something as common as precipitation can increase pain exponentially. Physicians are not sure why these weather changes cause pain specifically in patients with RA, but in general, it is believed that these atmospheric conditions increase swelling in the joints.
There’s a wide arrange of drugs used as a treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Depending on the symptoms presented by the patient, these treatments are used either to ease the pain, to slow or stop the disease or to inhibit structural damage.
Medication: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are accessible either over-the-counter or by prescription, and are used to ease arthritis pain and inflammation. Corticosteroid like prednisone and methylprednisolone are used as quick-acting anti-inflammatories. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, such as cyclophosphamide and azathioprine work to modify the course of the disease.
Surgery: For RA patients, surgery may never be needed, but it is important to still see it as a viable and important option for people with permanent damage. There are specialized joint-replacement surgeries that can relieve pain and restore function in joints badly damaged, and the procedure involves replacing damaged parts of a joint with metal and plastic parts.