Wintertime weather can affect more than just your mood; it can have a significant impact on your health as well — particularly if you are among the 50 million adults suffering from arthritis in the U.S. Dr. Jack Waxman of NCMA Rheumatology can help you understand and manage the symptoms associated with arthritis including those worsened by cold weather.
Anyone who suffers from arthritis pain can tell you that their joints do stiffen up as the temperature drops. And researchers have demonstrated in clinical studies that fluctuations in temperature or barometric pressure can have a very real effect on joint pain in arthritis patients, though they are still working out the exact reason for this phenomenon. For patients with arthritis the cold, damp weather can not only increase stiffness and joint pain it can also lead to increased anxiety, depression and isolation. Knowing when to seek professional help is an important factor in maintaining long term joint health and overall wellness.
Arthritis pain — where does it come from?
The pain of arthritis can originate from a variety of sources. These may include;
- inflammation of the synovial membrane (see below)
- the tendons
- or the ligaments
- muscle strain
- cartilage degeneration
And, a combination of the above factors generally contributes to the sensation and intensity of the pain. Arthritis is a musculoskeletal disorder with many different causes. It is a disease that is not completely understood by experts, and according to the Arthritis Foundation, there currently are no cures. There are at least 100 different known musculoskeletal diseases or conditions that effectively destroy joints, bones, muscles, cartilage and other connective tissues, all leading to restricted physical movement of some degree. Winter weather can escalate symptoms and take its toll on arthritis sufferers in a many different ways.
How it starts
In a healthy body, a membrane called the Synovium surrounds the joints and provides important cushioning. This membrane works to produce a small amount of thick fluid called Synovial Fluid that nourishes the cartilage, keeping movement fluid. The Synovium has a strong outer layer called the Capsule, which keeps the bones from moving too much. Whereas, ligaments are thick, strong bands usually just outside the Capsule located on both sides help to keep bones firmly in place. And finally, tendons, also located on both sides, attach muscles to bones. Their job is to hold the joint in place and help to move it.
Symptoms of arthritis are known to manifest in many ways, and it can be difficult to diagnose. It can come on slowly with only mild symptoms, or symptoms may appear suddenly, causing intense pain that escalates within just a few hours. Arthritis symptoms can also appear only occasionally over a long period of time. It might cause joint pain, swelling and stiffness, but it can also cause seemingly unrelated health problems like fatigue or a rash. In fact, early signs of arthritis are often mistaken for an injury or the result of over activity.
Common types of arthritis
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a progressive degenerative joint disease characterized by the breakdown of joint cartilage associated with risk factors such as weight (obesity), having a history of joint injury, and age. It affects nearly 27 million Americans, most over the age of 45.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a systemic disease characterized by the inflammation of the membrane lining the joint causing pain, stiffness, a sensation of warmth, swelling and sometimes severe joint damage. It can also cause inflammation all over the body, affecting vital organs such as the lungs. In the U.S., an estimated 1.5 million people have RA and for some reason, there are 2.5 times as many women as men with the disease.
Some facts about this debilitating disease:
- Rheumatoid arthritis affects 1.3 million people in the U.S., is typically diagnosed between ages 30 and 80 and also occurs in younger people
- The chances of a person their 20s developing RA is 1 in 714 for women and 1 in 2,778 for men
- Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the U.S.
- By 2030 an estimated 67 million Americans will have arthritis
- Two-thirds of people with arthritis are under the age of 65
- Arthritis and rheumatic conditions cost the U.S. economy $128 billion every year
How arthritis affects people
Joint health is an important part of every person’s sense of wellness, potentially impacting productivity, quality of life and independence. Taking steps to protect joints from ongoing pain and permanent damage caused by uncontrolled inflammation is important to everyone, and early diagnosis and treatment can actually save more than just joints. In this regard is may be helpful to know that NCMA’s Rheumatology provides comprehensive diagnostics, treatment and management of a full spectrum of rheumatologic health conditions for patients in the Santa Rosa region.
It is important to understand that arthritis pain affects people differently. Factors that can add to the pain a person may experience include the amount of swelling within the joint, the extent of heat or redness present and the damage that has occurred within the joint. Some patients report pain in their joints first thing in the morning while others may develop pain only after prolonged use of the joint. Everyone has a different threshold and tolerance for pain, and physical and emotional factors can also contribute to the sensations of pain.
Consult a professional
If you are experiencing joint symptoms and are wondering if it is arthritis, then perhaps it is time to consult a doctor in your area. Because there are so many types of arthritis and such a variety of conditions that affect the joints, diagnosis can be difficult. Most people suffering from joint pain usually start with their primary care physician and are then referred to medical specialists called rheumatologists, experts in arthritis and related diseases.
Dr. Jack Waxman of NCMA Rheumatology is a highly skilled rheumatologist who is able to provide patients with diagnostics, treatment and management of a full spectrum of rheumatologic health conditions. In addition to general rheumatologic medicine services, treatment of arthritic diseases and fibromyalgia, vasculitis, connective tissue diseases, osteoporosis, bone density scanning and infusion therapy is also available. To learn more visit the NCMA website or call 707-573-6942 to make an appointment today.
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The Arthritis Foundation: http://www.arthritis.org/