Arthritis - Whether Weather Affects Arthritis (cont.)

The risk of muscle cramping increases when an exercise activity is pursued without an adequate warm-up. This is particularly true in environments that are cold. Therefore, it is very important to do warm-up stretches and get the muscles ready to work for you before you get in the game!

Systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus)

Lupus is a potentially serious illness that can cause inflammation in a variety of internal organs, including the joints. Lupus can have a tendency to be activated by exposure to sunlight, a feature referred to as photosensitivity. Since ultraviolet light can trigger and worsen flare-ups of lupus that can involve the skin and/or the joints and other organs, patients with lupus should avoid sun exposure. Sunscreens and clothing that cover the extremities are essential.

Raynaud's phenomenon

Raynaud's phenomenon can be associated with a number of conditions that feature arthritis, including scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, mixed connective tissue disease, polymyositis, and others. Raynaud's phenomenon is a condition that results in the discoloration of the fingers and/or the toes when the patient is exposed to changes in temperature (cold or hot) or emotional events. Skin discoloration occurs because an abnormal spasm of the blood vessels results in a diminished blood supply. Initially, the digit(s) involved turn white because of diminished blood supply. The digit(s) then turn blue because of prolonged lack of oxygen. Finally, the blood vessels reopen, causing a local "flushing" phenomenon, which turns the digit(s) red. This three-phase color sequence (white to blue to red), which occurs most often upon exposure to cold temperature, is characteristic of Raynaud's phenomenon. People with Raynaud's phenomenon should minimize their exposure to extremes of temperature (particularly cold) and rapid changes of temperature. These patients can often benefit by living in environments that are warmer. This may mean moving for patients with severe disease. To emphasize (and offer a potential financial pearl), it should be noted that the utility companies in many states offer discounts for people with weather-related conditions that require extra heating!

REFERENCE:

Klippel, J.H., et al. Primer on the Rheumatic Diseases. New York: Springer, 2008.


Last Editorial Review: 2/1/2012