Your joints might feel different depending on the season.
Once you’ve lived with psoriatic arthritis for a while, you might notice that your symptoms seem to ebb and flow with the weather. No, you’re not imagining it: The weather really can affect your joint pain and stiffness.
What kind of weather will make my psoriatic arthritis symptoms better?
Psoriatic arthritis symptoms tend to improve when the weather is warmer. Doctors don’t know exactly why this happens, but heat in general tends to help with joint stiffness. Often, people with psoriatic arthritis feel better when taking warm showers or using heat compresses. It makes sense then that warm weather also seems to help.
Plus, people with psoriatic arthritis who also struggle with skin symptoms (psoriasis) may see improvement in the summer. This is partially because the sun provides ultraviolet rays, which has an anti-inflammatory effect on the skin for people with psoriasis. People tend to get more sun in the summer, so psoriasis symptoms may improve.
What makes joint pain worse?
Symptoms like joint pain, stiffness, and swelling may be worse when it’s cold, humid, and/or rainy. Plus, people with psoriatic arthritis might also experience more skin symptoms during winter months. Again, this may be because people tend to get less sunlight in the winter.
How do I cope with flares from seasonal changes?
If you know changes in weather can lead to changes in your psoriatic arthritis symptoms, you can plan ahead. During the winter, you can try the following tips:
- Use heat therapy, such as warm showers or heating pads
- Stick to healthy lifestyle habits to keep inflammation low
- Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicine (like ibuprofen) to relieve pain from weather-related flares
- Talk to your doctor about oral steroids if you’re having a serious flare
- Make a treatment plan with your doctor about changing your treatment plan during seasonal changes
- Stay active with regular exercise and stretching to loosen up stiff joints
- Keep a symptom diary to help track your triggers and find the weather changes that affect you most
Finally, if you struggle with psoriasis symptoms in the winter, you might be a good candidate for phototherapy. You could add this treatment (which uses UV light to treat symptoms) in the colder months. Talk to your doctor to see if this is a good option for you.
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.