Some people find that joint pain and swelling gets better in the summer.
It’s not always clear why, but many people with psoriatic arthritis find that their symptoms improve when the weather gets warm. For those who also struggle with skin symptoms (psoriasis), their plaques may also improve during the summer months. On the other hand, people with psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis may be more prone to flares during the winter.
How does warm weather improve psoriatic arthritis symptoms?
The answer isn’t clear, but researchers do know that heat generally reduces pain and stiffness caused by inflammation. Many people with psoriatic arthritis find that warm showers improve their joint pain, as well as heating pads and hot water bottles.
In a study of weather on rheumatoid arthritis (another type of inflammatory arthritis), individuals were more likely to visit the emergency department with an arthritis flare on days with a lower average temperature.
Why does psoriasis improve in the summer?
For those who have skin involvement of psoriatic disease, they may notice that their psoriasis improves in the summer as well. One reason for this is because people tend to get more sunlight in the warmer months.
The sun emits ultraviolet radiation, which has anti-inflammatory effects. Small amounts of sun exposure may help improve or prevent plaques.
However, don’t overdo it: Too much sunlight can damage and irritate the skin. Sunburn may trigger psoriasis flares for some people. Plus, sunburn increases the risk of skin cancer. You should still wear sunscreen with at least SPF 30. Find a sunscreen that is fragrance-free and made for sensitive skin.
Do I still have to stick to my treatment in the summer?
If your psoriatic arthritis is drastically different between winter and summer, talk to your doctor. You might benefit from tweaking your treatment regimen throughout the year. For example, some people add phototherapy to their treatment plan in the winter. This uses ultraviolet light to treat psoriasis symptoms.
In general, you should stick to your psoriatic arthritis treatment as prescribed during warm weather, even if your symptoms are improving. This includes following the lifestyle changes recommended by your doctor. Stopping your treatment might trigger a flare. This can be upsetting in the summer, when many people have busy plans for trips, activities, beach days, and long walks.
Saakshi Khattri, MD, is a rheumatologist and assistant professor at the Department of Rheumatology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
- Abasolo, L., et al. (2013). Weather conditions may worsen symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis patients: the possible effect of temperature. Reumatologia Clinica.
- American Academy of Dermatology Association. (N.D.). Psoriasis treatment: phototherapy.
- American College of Rheumatology.(2021). Psoriatic arthritis.
- Arthritis Foundation. (N.D.). Heat therapy helps relax stiff joints.
- National Psoriasis Foundation. (2020). Taking care of your skin in summer.
- Soyland, E., et al. (2011). Sun exposure induces rapid immunological changes in skin and peripheral blood in patients with psoriasis. British Journal of Dermatology.
- Zheng, X., et al. (2021). Seasonal variation of psoriasis and its impact in the therapeutic management: a retrospective study on Chinese patients. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology.