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Many people with arthritis feel that they can predict the weather. This observation is based on the increased pain that “weather sensitive” people have during rainy, cold weather or when the weather is changing. Some experiments have shown that about 70% of people with arthritis are weather sensitive. Women and people with osteoarthritis may be slightly more affected by weather changes than men and people with other types of arthritis. There is no totally satisfactory explanation for this phenomenon, but many rheumatologists do not feel that it is an “old wives’ tale.”

Arthritis occurs in every climate and every continent. Thus, scientists do not feel that climatic conditions cause arthritis. It appears that weather changes simply influence the amount of discomfort that a person with arthritis experiences and not whether someone gets arthritis. Likewise, weather changes do not appear to influence the amount of damage inflicted by joint inflammation.

There is no evidence that weather changes contribute to joint damage nor is there evidence that weather changes have anything to do with whether an individual gets arthritis in the first place. The benefit to be gained from moving one’s home to a drier, warmer climate is small and is usually overshadowed by the stress (both physical and emotional) that results from moving. Thus, rheumatologists rarely recommend that a person move to a different location to change climates. Although medical science can not support such climate related effects on arthritis, there have been many individuals who have experienced improvement in warmer and dryer climates. Finally, research dollars may be limited and better utilized on areas other than the relationship between weather and arthritis.

What conclusions can be drawn? There is some evidence that persons with arthritis have symptoms influenced by changes in the weather. Women may be more sensitive to weather changes than men. Those persons with osteoarthritis or fibromyalgia (at least in some studies) have the greatest likelihood of having symptoms made worse by climatic changes. Some people can predict rain. Changes in humidity, temperature and barometric pressure all have been implicated as factors changing joint pain. Only joint symptoms (such as pain and stiffness) are influenced by weather.

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