And this week the weather will be cloudy with a chance of pain! Those woolly jumpers have reemerged from their summer exile and the cold is kicking in – potentially reawakening that pesky PsA that had been on summer vacation. The cold winter months are here, and for many that means an increase in the symptoms of PsA1 . Here’s what you need to know.
Everybody dreads catching that winter bug *cough cough* but if you’re living with PsA, the winter sniffles can prove to be even more of a problem. That’s because the immune system, that is so important in fighting infection, is a double-edged sword when it comes to PsA. In PsA, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy human tissues, and for an immune system that is already on the attack, the fine line between what is foreign and what is human can become blurred. This can result in an increased chance of a PsA flare2. What’s more, some therapies for PsA interfere with your body’s natural response to infection3 making illness harder to fight. Make sure to discuss winter bugs with your doctor if you have any concerns.
The shorter days of winter and the extra layers needed to keep out the cold mean you are much less likely to be exposed to sunlight in the winter. The UV component of sunshine can have a beneficial effect on psoriasis by slowing the growth of skin cells4 (psoriasis is caused by inflammation in the skin that triggers the production of too many skin cells) so the disappearance of the sun in winter could be a bad thing for PsA1. Cold weather and the artificial indoor heat can also suck the moisture out of skin so it’s important to keep moisturized5.
One of the strangest effects that cold weather can have on PsA is giving the gift of weather forecasting. Scientists haven’t quite fathomed out why, but it is clear that certain changes in the weather (often those associated with winter) cause increases in the aches and pains of PsA and enable people to predict what the weather will do next.
One of the most likely culprits for this appears to be a thing called barometric pressure. Put simply, barometric pressure is the weight of the atmosphere upon us6. A constant force pushing on our bodies and keeping our tissues in check. When pressure drops (as happens just before bad weather arrives), less pressure is placed on the body and tissues inside expand. Expanded tissues cause an increase in pressure on joints, putting strain on already painful joints6. It does seem rather confusing, but a drop in pressure in the atmosphere causes an increase in pressure (and pain) on joints. A similar effect is also thought to affect people who suffer with migraines7.
Time to book that one-way ticket to a warmer climate? Chances are that pain will, unfortunately, travel with you. Your best bet is to stay warm by dressing in layers, keeping the home heated8 and continuing to follow your regular routines for managing PsA such as moisturising and exercising.
We recommend using winter as the perfect excuse to run yourself a warm bath - for medicinal reasons of course (or better still, get someone else to run it for you). The bath is your secret weapon against PsA, as water reduces the force of gravity that is compressing your joints and can decrease swelling hopefully soaking the pain away9.