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Winter and its low temperatures increase pain and stiffness of the joints in people with arthritis.

Arthritis is an inflammatory disease that affects the joints. These become inflamed producing pain and can become deformed and lose mobility. In the case of psoriatic arthritis, it is a heterogeneous and chronic condition whose inflammatory arthritis is progressive and presents both, dermatological and muscular manifestations.

But how do cold temperatures affect psoriatic arthritis symptoms? Although there does not seem to be a definitive explanation, some aspects that could explain this increase in arthritis symptoms with winter are the following:

Low atmospheric pressure

As general rule, atmospheric pressure drops with the arrival of cold fronts or storms, this low pressure influences the expansion of the joints, which causes pain in people who suffer from arthritis.

A study carried out in patients with osteoarthritis, showed that they experience an increase in joint pain in response to a decrease in pressure, indicating that low atmospheric pressure conditions exacerbate joint pain in these patients. Likewise, in this work there are some meteorological variables that affect the appearance of pain in rheumatoid arthritis, since they also reported how low temperature is correlated with an increase in the risk of joint pain [1].

Increase in synovial fluid thickness

Synovial fluid is rich in hyaluronic acid, its function is to reduce friction in the joints and to absorb the impacts they may suffer. Synovial fluid is lined by a membrane, called the synovial membrane, which becomes inflamed in diseases such as rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis [2].

Low temperatures can cause synovial fluid to thicken, making the joints stiffer and more sensitive to pain [3]. Contributing to the increase of the painful sensation in cases of arthritis.

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Joint mobility reduction

Joints have less flexibility and mobility in colder temperatures. This fact was verified through a study carried out in 20 healthy people to whom different heat treatments were applied.

By applying cold temperatures, it was verified how the flexibility of the knee was reduced, specifically of the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments. Similarly, low temperatures were shown to increase the force required to move the knee, approximately 25% more than with higher temperatures [4].

In the same way, working in areas with cold environments can increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Thus, a study conducted among workers in Sweden, determined that workers in cold environments had a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis [5].

Effects of cold in psoriatic skin

Low temperatures do not only affect the joints. Cold can worsen the dermatological manifestations of psoriasis.

As we discussed in this post, environmental dryness and especially that produced by the use of heating, reduces the hydration of the skin and promotes the appearance of skin lesions. Which can affect the appearance of psoriatic outbreaks.

To prevent these lesions from worsening, it is necessary to increase skin hydration and maintain proper hygiene using mild soaps that do not contain perfumes or reduce the lipid layer of the skin.

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How to prevent the effects of cold in psoriatic arthritis

It is advisable to try to prevent the effects of cold on the joints, especially in the case of people with psoriatic arthritis. This can reduce pain and stiffness in them. Some tips to protect your joints from the cold are:

  • Hydrate yourself: Keep your skin hydrated by using oily and fragrance-free products [6].
  • Exercise: Perform physical activity to reduce stress, a risk factor in the appearance of psoriatic outbreaks, exercise also improves sleep quality and reduces anxiety levels [6].
  • Keep your joints warm: Wear soft clothes, preferably cotton, that protect your joints from the cold. If temperatures are very low, wear thermal garments [6].
  • Vitamin D: In winter the hours of sun exposure are reduced, which can decrease our levels of vitamin D. Deficiencies in this vitamin are frequent in patients with psoriasis, so it is advisable to monitor their levels and increase them through a diet rich in vitamin D [7].

References

  1. Vergés J, Montell E, Tomàs E, Cumelles G, Castañeda G, Marti N, Möller I. Weather conditions can influence rheumatic diseases. Proc West Pharmacol Soc. 2004;47:134-6.
  2. https://web.archive.org/web/20150106165422/http://www.ser.es/wiki/index.php/Sinovitis
  3. https://creakyjoints.org/living-with-arthritis/coping-with-arthritis-in-winter/
  4. Petrofsky JS, Laymon M, Lee H. Effect of heat and cold on tendon flexibility and force to flex the human knee. Med Sci Monit. 2013;19:661-667.
  5. Zeng P, Bengtsson C, Klareskog L, Alfredsson L. Working in cold environment and risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis: results from the Swedish EIRA case-control study. RMD Open. 2017 Aug 16;3(2):e000488.
  6. https://www.psoriasistreatmentbangalore.com/winter-tips-for-psoriasis-and-psoriatic-arthritis/
  7. https://www.everydayhealth.com/psoriasis/living-with/ways-to-get-more-vitamin-d-and-improve-your-psoriasis/